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


Three social entrepreneurship lessons gained in Morogoro

It was an early start to the day in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania but we were all looking forward visiting the rural town of Morogoro, located 190km from the city centre. Along with the TANZICT team and CEO of COSTECH Incubator we had a long 3 hour drive ahead and driving into beautiful Morogoro was an experience in itself. We were welcomed by Nate who is a passionate young man part of the Global Students Embassy programme and who currently runs a computer training facility in Morogoro.

As we arrived we were directed to a school (read TANZICT post about the experience)where more than 150 learners were waiting for us to discussion social innovation and entrepreneurship. Spending time with this amazing group of young people who are passionate about their communities and social change taught me THREE valuable Social Entrepreneurship lessons:

1) Adversity is the catalysts for innovation. In a community where the learners indicated that the main problems are water, electricity, infrastructure and connectivity were the key drivers for social innovation in the community.

2) Community-driven innovation initiatives are great opportunities to grow into social enterprises.
Some of the learners saw an opportunity to start a gardening project where they can grow produce that can possibly be sold to members of the local community.

3) Tension in communities do bring together a wide range of people who as a collective can address the problems in a sustainable way.
Through the GSE program it is amazing to see how a number of different stakeholders in Morogoro along with the learners and schools are coming together to make a difference in their communities.

The experience with the learners was nothing short of being special and their passion to learn about entrepreneurship with a social impact tells me that Morogoro, Tanzania has a bright future ahead with world-class leaders.


Social Innovation in Tanzania

Arriving in Dar es Salaam a few days ago brought an air of excitement in that it is a city with so much potential and a growing interest in technology. The RLabs visit was in partnership with TANZICT that stands for The Information Society and ICT Sector Development Project. It’s bilateral collaboration project between the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology of Tanzania (MCST) and Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The project’s overall objective is a strengthened Tanzanian information society with enhanced capacities to contribute to the achievement of the Government’s socio-economic development goals.

The project is organized in three components:

1) Support the revision of the national ICT policy and start of the implementation.
2) Strengthen the Institutional capacity of MCST.
3) Create Tanzanian Innovation Program.

Social Entrepreneurship and its role in leaving a social impact:

The first session we had at the TANZICT Innovation Hub was to share the story of RLabs and to see the process of using Social Entrepreneurship in making a difference in the community. The presentation (see above) was followed by a discussion with some young entrepreneurs about how they can use Social problems in the community to make a difference. Through some exercises the entrepreneurs grew ideas into addressing local problems their communities are facing in Dar es Salaam. The day ended with some fascinating pitches by mobile entrepreneurs and it showed the potential for having Dar es Salaam as a technology hub for East Africa. The day really highlighted the need for fresh thinking to solve real problems on the African continent and proved that Social Innovation will be at the forefront of bringing the change needed in Tanzania driven by young tech social entrepreneurs.


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.


Lean start-up approaches to RLabs Social Enterprises

One of the buzz words in the developing world is the increased usage of the term Social Enterprise. Many however mistakenly confuse Social Enterprises for traditional non-profits. Social enterprises differ in that it has a specific triple bottom-line which focus an addition of social and environmental values to the traditional economic measures of a corporation or organization’s success. The need for social enterprises are increasing with a specific focus on addressing the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

At RLabs, the Innovation Incubator have now take the approach of incubating and accelerating Social Enterprises to address community problems and we’ve been applying The Lean Startup methodology as described by Eric Ries (See image above Eric addressing Ignite event)which I was fortunate to meet at an event in San Francisco. At RLabs the lean startup approach to our startups was very helpful and we’ve already seen one of our startups JamiiX growing into a business operating for almost a year now.

The Lean Startup basically emerged through the following key trends:

1) Use of free and open source software
2) Application of agile software development methods
3) Applying a customer-centric rapid iteration approach to development (Similar to our Living Lab, methodology at RLabs)

Not only is RLabs using The Lean Startup approach in its incubator but have also been using the same approach within the movement itself. Eric will be releasing his book titled “The Lean Startup – How Today’s Entrepreneurs use continious Innovation to create radically successful businesses” later this year and be sure to catch your copy and we will keep you updated on the progress of our social enterprise startups at RLabs.


One Percent Club: You Make it Work

Many opportunities exist to get involved with emerging social projects and one that RLabs have found to be extremely effective is the Innovative One Percent Club. 1% Club is the marketplace that connects smart development projects with people, money and knowledge around the world (Something similar to the Kiva initiative – See video above). With projects from over 36 countries supported by close to 5000 members it is one of those Social Entrepreneurship success stories.

I will also have the privilege to attend and speak about our Community Experiences at the One Percent Club Event in Amsterdam, 17 September 2010, that brings together people from all over the world to engage in the use of Web 2.0 and Innovation for Social Good. For more information about the event visit the event website and you can join 1% Club on Facebook or follow them on Twitter


JamiiX: From the Cape Flats with Love

Yesterday was an exciting day as we celebrated the announcement (Thanks to Memeburn)of what we’ve been doing over the past three years. The public announcement of JamiiX (Meaning “Social Exchange”) as a new Web 2.0 product that has been developed on the Cape Flats in Silicon Cape would prove to be more than just an average aggregator for Social Networks and Instant Messengers but will come with a little dash of colourfulness that will certainly change communication channels using Web 2.0.

JamiiX is a Web based tool providing organizations/ businesses/ government/ individuals to manage multiple conversations from different Social Media, Text Messaging and various Instant Messaging platforms. Some benefits using JamiiX are:

1.Lower Cost to User
2.Reporting mechanisms
3.Communication is easy as the users use mediums that they are comfortable with
4.Manage multiple conversations at a time.
5.Reach audience on both PC and mobile devices
6.Counselors or Advisors are able to provide support via JamiiX remotely using an internet connection.
7.Easy setup and low cost to operate.

MoVigo Technologies (Pty) Ltd. have taken the task of commercialising possible the first Cape Flats Community-Driven Innovation from the ground to a global product. Already with business partners and offices in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Finland along with its strategic partners Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs),MXit Lifestyle and ISLabs, JamiiX could well be a technology startup fairytale encouraging open collaboration with communities in developing innovative solutions. MoVigo Technologies has already acquired some seed funding (R1.4 million) from SAFIPA (SOUTH AFRICA – FINLAND KNOWLEDGE PARTNERSHIP ON ICT PROGRAMME) with the goal of establishing JamiiX as an international brand.

Watch this space as we will be sharing more about JamiiX and keep you updated on the progress of the official launch next week 8 June 2010. If you would like to join the JamiiX team at the launch you can register on the website and send a request message. You can also follow JamiiX on twitter or join the Facebook page.