Run a startup like Bruce Lee

Presented a short presentation at an ICT incubator networking event in Port Elizabeth, South Africa talking about startups and lessons we can learn from Bruce Lee. Below is the presentation and the talk was inspired by another legend Sheraan Amod’s post “When Effectiveness trumps Efficiency”.

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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.

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Mobile and Cloud Technologies to empower youth at risk

This has been an exciting week with many of our DAS Counsellors being flooded with responses from youth who are seeking employment and study opportunities. After an article in the media indicating that 51% of South African youth are unemployed we really see an opportunity for Department of Education and Trade and Industry to provide after school opportunities that will reach this target audience. This week alone we’ve received more than 400 conversations per hour via MXit, Africa’s largest mobile social network, requesting support in the area of careers, employment and studies. This is directly due to 74% of our 250,000+ mobile support users are aged between 15 – 25.

At RLabs we are launching our FREE Academy for the community and youth at risk, as well providing career mentorship programmes via MXit and our JamiiX Cloud System. Our partnership with MXit and support from Vodacom Foundation and SAFIPA is key to growing these services to youth across South Africa.

The work we are doing have been highlighted in a number of local newspapers and online news portals. You can view some of the articles below:

Cape Times (3 February 2011)

IT Online (3 February 2011)

News 24 (1 February 2011)

My Broadband (1 February 2011)

VolksBlad (3 February 2011)

Beeld (3 February 2011)

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Innovative mobile initiative brings emergency preparedness information to Indonesia


Another exciting project collaboration was launched today by RLabs, JamiiX, MXit and the World Health Organisation (WHO). This innovative initiative brings emergency preparedness information to mobile phone users in Indonesia and surrounding parts of South East Asia. This is a campaign supported by the WHO to bring about change in the area of disaster stricken communities in need of safer hospitals.

Hence now Indonesians using MXit chat are able to access personal preparedness information, including what to do in the case of different natural disasters like floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and cyclones; how to prepare an emergency kit and how to plan for possible evacuation. This information is teamed up with facts on safe hospitals in disaster zones. People are urged to sign up on MXit and through a Facebook and JamiiX reaction tester, can help the campaign reach it’s 1 million supporter target – which also includes the likes of WHO Goodwill ambassador and international superstar Jet Li.

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JamiiX features in African Business Review


Below is an interesting article featured on African Business Review about our JamiiX product that we’ve been re-designing the last couple of months and we will be releasing the new version of JamiiX end of December.

“In Cape Town, South Africa, Marlon Parker, an IT lecturer and entrepreneur, has been using MXit and other forms of mobile instant messaging (MIM) to counsel people, particularly teenagers, affected by drugs, alcohol, and HIV. Many of the former addicts go on to be counsellors at the aptly named Reconstructed Living Labs (RLabs). MIM fits the bill perfectly as a communications channel for this audience because it is a non-threatening and familiar way of interacting, a whole lot cheaper than texting or calling, and importantly provides the immediacy and direct communication needed by the vulnerable people using the service. The latest innovation I am watching is Marlon’s recently launched JamiiX, the platform RLabs has developed to manage multiple mobile chat and mobile social networks. It allows eight counsellors to have 300 IM conversations in one hour, massively increasing their ability to assist those who need help. Already nominated for a Bees Award, and now available for anyone to use, JamiiX provides an interesting opportunity for other support organisations around the world.”

Read full article here

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10 to 250,000 in 30 months

After 2 years of providing Mobile Support Services, RLabs have managed to surpass the 250,000 barrier through all its services. This is all thanks to a partnership with MXit and JamiiX providing information and mobile counselling services in the areas of substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, depression, abuse and other areas in need. This milestone is proof that technology can be used to bring change in society. A special thanks to all the counsellors and content providers who have done an amazing job in sacrificing their time in making a difference in the lives of others.

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RLabs Mobile Services into Africa

This weekend was another great milestone for the team at RLabs and JamiiX as we partnered with MXit to expand our mobile services into other parts of Africa. The mobile services being offered includes the Angel service and the JamiiX mobile counselling support services.

This partnership will now see the RLabs mobile services not only supporting South African mobile users but will also reach countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Nigeria and Mauritius. We are excited about this partnership and looking forward to seeing the lives of people being transformed through the use of mobile phones.

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How Twitter is changing lives on the Cape Flats and beyond

Over the last two years Twitter had a very big impact on the lives of many in the RLabs community on the Cape Flats. The journey with this micro-blogging platform started in 2008 when a number of young men and women were introduced to Twitter for the first time by Rafiq Philips from Web Addicts fame. Most of this group were ex-drug addicts and ex-gang members who found Twitter to be an outlet where they can share their voices of Hope. In the beginning stages all the tweets were between the group encouraging one another and telling their stories of hope to the rest of their followers. What we saw was that the lives of those tweeting had a major transformation not just by the stories (See Video below) they were sharing but also having an impact offline. Instead of only using twitter as a news, media and sharing online tool it was also used as a gateway to positive messages that the group could disseminate offline with family, friends and wider community. These ex-gangsters were now calling themselves “Twitter Gangsters” also known as “Twitsters” even had the opportunity to share some of their stories at a World Bank event. One of the “Twitsters” (aka Brent Williams – no relation to Evan Williams) who was an ex-gang leader said he has more followers on Twitter than what he had when he was leading a notorious gang and he can now through Twitter leave positive footprints in the community.

It did not stop there, the group who were trained in using Twitter then started the Twitter School where they empowered women in the community to share their stories and encouraging one another. These Twitter Schools also moved into public areas where Social Media Surgeries were hosted to share twitter with community members.

This gave birth to the world’s FIRST Social Media Factory, where trained community members who are unemployed are given opportunities to create extra income through being part of a team managing social media strategies for businesses, organisations, schools and public figures. This meant that those organisations who are in need of having their Social Media Strategy being managed or outsourced not only get access to these services at very good prices but also the teams implementing these strategies will consist of a mix of experts and community members like our Twitsters and Twitter moms. Exciting when a housewife who have no other form of income can use her Twitter skills and manage the Twitter stream for an organisation via her mobile phone. She would then be rewarded for each tweet thus being able to make a basic living via the Social Media Factory system. No wonder one of these moms shared some insight to why she believe all women should be on twitter (See video below).

However what really got us excited was when we were able to give people in need access to our advice and support services via Twitter. This meant that access to LIVE support in the area of substance abuse, abuse, depression, stress and coping and debt counselling were now only a tweet or instant message away. These services extended beyond just the Cape Flats and reached the rest of Southern Africa.

Although most of the users accessing these services do so via Mobile IMs such as MXit the opportunity to reach wider audiences with Twitter has assisted us reaching close to 200,000 users to our mobile support services. The integration of Twitter with JamiiX gives us hope that we would be able to extend what we are doing to other parts of the world and changing it one tweet at a time….

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