Codebridge Mentorship: Weeks 4–6

NeoOptic Solutions

Possibly the most novel idea in the programme this year, NeoOptic Solutions are dedicated to the development of their product. They adapt easily to new concepts and engage daily outside of the Monday and Friday meetups.

They have spent a significant amount of time on user testing, interviewing multiple stakeholders like events companies (in exploring alternate payment options using radio-frequency identification technologies), lifeguards, Durban Tourism, different hotels, some public sector players, and parents. Through this exercise they have identified multiple value offerings to each segment, the key now is the focus on a single stream and put energies towards it.

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Picadoo

Following the onboarding process, the team has shown a clear need to be accelerated versus the incubation model we have put out to the programme.

Access to markets is the biggest challenge they will encounter as the hair care industry is a tough market, compounded by the informality of the sector and the advent of foreign nationals dominating the local industry, trusting a solution such as Picadoo will be a hard-sell.

Trusted Traders

I have strongly advised the team to focus on the user experience design and the route to market using growth hacking (hacking using a combination of digital tools like data analysis, Hello Bar and bounce exchange to accelerate product development and access to markets).

My concern with this bunch is their inability to organize their thoughts and consequently their workflow. To this end, we had a meeting with a local entrepreneur who is entering the “Uber of services” market with his product Jelpr. Jelpr is just that, a market linkage app that links services needs like plumbing and gardening to demand from an ordinary consumer. The aim for this is to explore a collaboration of sorts.

Let’s see the discussion go.

Green Gold Technologies

While technically very strong in his understanding of the innovation I have strong concerns about this candidate, Joash and he resounds the same concern. Given this, we have set a low trajectory and the achievable milestones for the 12-week incubation programme to two work streams: the development of a superior product or skilling in the business development process. We have gone with the former in keeping with clear deliverables after our weekly session.

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How does this inform the incubation?

Context

Coming from the Youth Innovation Challenge, the teams met for the first time during the hackathon and were placed in teams of individuals they met for the very first time. This had an adverse affect on the ability for teams to develop organically being put into teams with members they had no working relationship with.

Another central idea to the backdrop of the youth innovation is the location of the hackathon — University of Kwazulu Natal. While a novel idea of creating partnerships, I think this process marginalized a greater community of independent innovators who do not associate with higher learning institutions. Going into the hackathon and/or Youth Innovation Challenge I would suggest hosting them in impartial and communal spaces that create access to a better pool.

Content

Central to our incubation material are the principles of lean, agile and mindful design thinking and this has informed the tools we use for the sessions such as stakeholder mapping, javelin board, social canvas, empathy map and the value proposition map just to mention a few.

This content is functional and is enjoyed by the candidates given their participation in our sessions. Vuyani (from NeoOptic Solutions) often describes it as “innovative and refreshing”

Delivery

The style of the teaching presented is meant to be in an engaging manner where teams are asked to co-create the lessons that we are going through, many citing that the attention they receive is different to that of college and university.

I am of the idea that the intimate and mindful hourly sessions have the deepest impact and prompt for highest learning.

Functional tools

Two primary takeaways from this incubation process is the development of an online toolkit that promotes remote access to functional online tools like worksheets, lean startup methodologies, design thinking notes and a series of social innovation case studies and practical application tools that assist in small enterprise development; and the scaling of the Codebridge programme by increasing the reach we have as a team.

Teams engaged with the tools for the very first time and it was a daring exercise to have them work on the tools outside of our contact. This leads one to think that the design thinking that would prompt independent use of the toolkit needs to be facilitated through workshops and a strong thrust to user-centered design of the actual toolkit.

-NK

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

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