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’s 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.



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.



Mobile insights of South African youth

South Africa is continuing to grow as a mobile hungry nation as a recent study revealed that South Africans spend more time on their mobile phones than any other media channel.

As part of our research to understand youth reactions towards advertising RLabs conducted a mobile survey to 6,812 respondents which generated some interesting findings:

The age groups predominately featured are those between the ages of 18 – 35 (86% of respondents). More females responded to the survey (54%) than their make counter-parts (46%).

The most popular handset manufacturer was Nokia with (41%), followed by Samsung and Blackberry. The top 3 network operators were MTN (37%), Vodacom (25%) and Cell C (24%).

The study also indicated that 77% of the respondents spend 4 hours and more on the mobile internet daily. The most popular mobile phone transactions by the respondents were Buying Airtime/Electricity (35%) and Virtual Goods (31%). Mobile Banking only made up 6% of the responses.

Our study also confirmed the study by Inmobi that South African mobile phone users are comfortable with ads via mobile phone. We asked 3 questions related to mobile advertising and the respondents gave some unexpected answers:

How is your attitude towards mobile ads?

I am happy because I learn things I did not know before (36%)
I am ok with it because sometimes it could be useful (54%)
Don’t bother me because I ignore it anyways (4%)
Irritates me because I don’t like being bothered (3%)

What is your reaction towards mobile ads?

Click if it interests me (51%)
Read if interested but don’t click (11%)
Read even if not interested (17%)
Click on as even if it does not interest me (9%)
Ignore ads or look for skip option (8%)

Which ads do you prefer to see when it is shown?

Services (Education, Health, Social, informative etc.) (66%)
Entertainment (11%)
Lifestyle (Dating, Sports etc.) (9%)
Money or Finances (6%)
Brands (3%)

The respondents for the above study with gathered over a period of 2 weeks via the RLabs mobi and Mxit portals.



RLabs Innovation Incubator: Growing Social Enterprises

It has been 4 weeks since the kick-off of the RLabs Innovation Incubator and Accelerator (InnovIA). The social enterprises being incubated this year is a wide variety and we will be featuring them on our website over the coming weeks. Some of them has already had a great start to the year although it has only been 4 weeks. Some of the highlights:

She’s the Geek launches DigiWomen programme for vulnerable women and empowering them with digital and entrepreneurial skills.
Urahisi, mobile ordering platform, have secured their first client and already attracted hundreds of users.
LetzGo, public transport booking platform via mobi-web, making progress with their go to market plan and focus on the Southern Africa markets. Also in the process of securing a technology partner for their payment gateway.
Chisana and Social Media Factory growing concepts who will be going into prototyping phase over the next few weeks.Social Media Factory has also secured clients and growing its micro-work team through the RLabs community.
MiGoX (website coming soon), community government social platform, have started development and curating of content.
Uusi, jobs social network, have passed 6.5 million job searches since its soft launch early December 2011. Currently more than 40,000 registered users have uploaded their Mobile CVs.

The above highlights after 4 weeks are proof that lots more exciting things are lying ahead for the social enterprises at RLabs and we will keep you updated on the progress as the teams work towards their October 2012 launch day.

Source: RLabs


The journey of an imperfect being

Life as we know it comes with all kinds of challenges, tears, joy, heartache and laughter. Life in itself is a journey, one that we all undertake, one where we hope that we live life to the fullest and be able to at least make a positive difference and impact in the life’s journey of others.

In most cases, we as people disqualify ourselves from being able to make that positive impact because we are focused on our imperfections and always have the struggle in our minds that we are too bad to be of any good. I’ve had this struggle many times in my life and it is always a battle because it is easier to give up and accept our imperfections and use it as an excuse not to do the good.

Since starting this journey of longing to do good there is always a perception of who you are (your background) and what is it that allows you to follow through on this journey of hope. So many have asked the question before, “Who is Marlon Parker?, What is his story? What’s your motives?” and many responses to these questions were given. Today I want to take it further and tell you who I am from the heart:

I was born in a home where my father deserted me at a young age, not being the perfect son to a loving mother and late-grandmother (they are my life), not even the perfect brother (I love my brothers and sister, the one who I should have taken care of and nurtured as an older brother is in prison today), not the perfect husband to my beautiful wife (who has my heart and who I love, yet she forgive me and love me even when I caused her pain and heartache), not the perfect friend (every friend that I’ve ever letdown, caused pain or not live up to your expectations). As a teenager I could not deal with peer-pressure and became a “teen alcoholic” wanting to please others just to be accepted. At the age of 15 I was suicidal had no longing to live and no ambition, fatherless and rebellious. I was never the perfect student, I’ve failed many times (failed people too) and yet I had this longing to one day be able to do good.

Yet the questions always remained: how can I (Marlon Parker) who lied, cheated, caused pain and heartache, who was dishonest, broke vows, alcoholic, deserted, imperfect, failed, weak, scared make a positive change in someone’s life? What qualifies me to do this yet I’m the worst of the worst and not the perfect person?

The answer is simple and is found in these beautiful words:

“when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears”

I AM NOT perfect and will never BE but my perfection is found in my faith in the LORD Jesus (He was the one who carried me and is still carrying me all these years even when I failed Him).

This journey of Hope and making a difference was never about me and will never be about me…it is about the people (By people for people). If someone who is as bad and imperfect as me could persevere on this journey then anyone can do good and make a difference.

I therefore ask forgiveness to everyone who was ever letdown and hurt by Marlon, to those who feel imperfect and that you can’t do anything to make a difference, think again….your journey has just begun and someone out there has been waiting on you to start their reconstruction process.

Marlon needs to be reconstructed and that is the reason why “I will always need you” because this journey is not about me (will never be), it is about the people, it is about hope, it is about learning, it is about opportunity, it is about reconstruction and it is about A Social Revolution (by the people for the people) especially those who are longing for reconstruction and that has always been what RLabs represents.


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.