Codebridge Mentorship: Week 1–3

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The eThekwini Municipality through Innovate Durban, in a response to the need to create an enabling environment for youth innovation, have taken on an ambitious, first of its kind programme that will see the incubating of 4 newbie startups in Durban. The enterPRIZE Challenge is a response to this need. A startup competition that looks to matching young talented coders, designers and entrepreneurs to solve some of the City’s toughest problems. This is done in partnership with the Independent Labour Organisation and Open Data Durban.

This comes after a gruelling 3 month campaign of identifying the city’s best technology talent and taking them through a series of entrepreneurship workshops and a hackathon to find innovative solutions to Durban’s toughest problems.

On the back of this, through its partnership with Code for South Africa, Open Data Durban has embarked on an even more ambitious project of sparking civic innovation in South Africa. Codebridge is the programmatic partnership of Open Data Durban and Code for South Africa and is a civic technology incubator that aims to spark civic change through incubation and mentorship of social ventures, introducing open data through high school clubs and exposing CSOs to tools of change for their organisation.

And this is where I fit in, NK, to champion this programme and more importantly hack what this thing is. Codebridge is meant to deliver meaningful change in society by empowering ordinary citizens to make informed decisions about their cities. Over 12 weeks I will be incubating 4 startups that have come out of the enterPRIZE Challenge (Durban’s premier technology startup competition) and with it hack a toolkit to make it accessible for any social venture in South Africa.

Pikadoo — linking the different parts of the haircare industry

Pikadoo is a mobile app and matchmaking website for informal hair care practitioners and customers. They plan to do this by mapping all practitioners by location, creating a platform for the customer to hop on their device and search for a salon.

Pikadoo is clear on their product and opportunity that they are presenting to the market.

They demonstrated the ability to have been working on the solution post the enterprise challenge finale. Where they do seem to be lacking is the growth strategy and route to market.

NeoOptic — the internet of child minding

NeoOptic Solutions is a startup with the aim of rolling out social innovations using “the internet of things”. These technologies include chips, Arduino’s sensors, QR codes and RFD. Their flagship product, Tola Tag, is a wristband that will help parents locate their children on Durban’s beaches during high visitor season.

While not very clear on the mechanics and architecture of the product, the members are well rounded on their ability to deliver a working prototype by the end of the incubation period.

Green Gold Technologies — using algae as a key nutrient in aquaculture

Coming from a strong research background, Green Gold Technologies (GGT) led by a young Master’s student from a local university aim to cultivate and harvest algae and produce feed for small-scale aquaculture farms.

GGT has a strong thrust towards the academic validation of pursuing aquaculture in Durban and this may compromise their ability to be a public-facing enterprise as they do not exhibit strong business development and a keen interest towards small business marketing and sales functions.

Studying towards his master’s degree in Biosciences there is a strong technical knowledge of the solution delivery. The other team members have left the venture following the enterprise challenge, this is worrisome as there will be no support system and dynamism in solution implementation.

Trusted Traders — empowering artisans with little market exposure

With the advent and disruption of the market by Uber, this group of enthusiasts aim to create an Uber for services like plumbing, cleaning, tiling etc through a mobile app.

This bunch appear to be clear on the technical needs of the application. They understand their weakness in not having the bravado of developing a product from concept stage to implementation. And again, like Joash (the lead for the aquaponics project) they are technically inclined prompting little to no interest in business development with their focus being on technology development.

This presents a special opportunity for the Codebridge incubation programme as one of the major reasons that cite startup failure is little technical know-how. This warrants the need to creating powerful tools for change that empower young aspirant startups and given them a fighting chance.

Now, what does this mean for the design thinking process? How is this tool contextually relevant for a society that is driven by hand to mouth exercises where each venture is built for survival and not building a resilient organisation?

Design thinking is the process before the process, the process where one unpacks the idea without venturing into the product design stage. This is absolutely critical in the iterative design philosophy that we employ as Open Data Durban.

As mentioned, key to the success of this programme is to take the learnings,building them into a functional toolkit and working with dynamic teams each with their unique set of operational problems will provide a good use case in building the various parts of this toolkit.

What have been the biggest outcomes over the first 3 weeks of the incubation programme?

Deliberate and mindful product development are the central themes of this programme.

Design thinking has been crucial to understanding valuable insights that prompt a higher success rate and also a high iteration velocity of the teams. This aligns very well with our principles as a civic tech incubator in creating solutions that speak to the betterment of society by way of active participation and building empowering tools that speak to the crux of problems.

Keep tracking our progress over the coming weeks by engaging with us online or pay us a visit through:

  1. Codebridge Lab Sessions
  2. Meetup ODD
  3. Codebridge Mentorship

Most certainly, the groups would appreciate valuable insights from ordinary folk outside of my facilitator rambling.

-NK

Nkululeko Mthembu is ODD Codebridge Lead , A young pioneer peering over the intersection of technology and ethnology.