#74 Common Pitch South Africa // Highlights

Photo by Heather Costaras.

In February I traveled to Cape Town South Africa to produce COMMON’s first international pitch event in partnership with Design Indaba. I had been told that visiting South Africa would be life changing and it was – in ways that I’m still processing in a mist of amazement and bright new perspectives that I’ve taken back with me to the US.

Here are a few highlights from my time there.

COMMON Pitch South Africa // Mentor Day 

COMMON Pitch events include a day-long workshop with established entrepreneurs who have been there. Mentors talk with the presenting entrepreneurs in one-hour long sessions about their experiences; covering the awesome times, the struggles and the lessons learned when getting a business off the ground.

The mentor sessions took place on the Grand Daddy Hotel rooftop in Cape Town, where creative entrepreneurs (and COMMON Pitch South Africa mentors) created a magical courtyard surrounded by vintage Airstream trailers with new ultra-cool interiors that serve as quarters for hotels guests. And I got to stay in one!


We were happy and lucky to have these local Cape Town entrepreneurs join us as COMMON Pitch mentors.

Henk Kleynhans // CEO and founder at Skyrove – South Africa’s largest independent Wi-Fi hotspot network with over 600 Wi-Fi hotspots in South Africa.
Twitter: @geekrebel
Website: http://www.skyrove.com/
Blog: http://www.geekrebel.com/

Simon de Haan // Chief Engineer at Praekelt & Praekelt Foundation. Praekelt builds mobile campaigns, platforms and technologies to enhance people’s lives.
Twitter: @smn
Website: http://www.praekelt.com/
Website: http://praekeltfoundation.org/

Ross Chowles // Executive Creative Director at Jupiter Drawing Room – named a Top Ten Design Agency.
Twitter: @Kyffen
Website: http://www.jupiter.co.za/

Peter Shrimpton // Venture Capitalist at Heart Capital – a boutique social investment company based in Cape Town, South Africa.
Twitter: @heartcapitalSA
Website: http://www.heartcapital.co.za/

Jody Aufrichtig & Nick Ferguson // Marketing Visionaries and Entrepreneurs behind the Grand Daddy Hotel and Daddy’s World.
Twitter: @oldmacdaddy
Website: http://www.oldmacdaddy.co.za/
More: http://www.designindaba.com/speaker/daddys-world

COMMON Pitch South Africa // Culture

Producing a pitch event that focused on social-enterprise in Africa meant learning as much as we could about the culture. We found both similarities and surprises. Similarities included a thirst for creativity and design in the business world – many of the businesses our entrepreneurs’ address issues beyond basic needs, like creating value through creative expression. Surprises included not being able to access the internet at times – we’re spoiled in America!

Another thing that often popped up was an assumption that businesses doing good (social enterprises) “should” be structured as non-profits or NGOs. The idea applies to social-entrepreneurs across the globe, however specifically in South Africa, the assumption is a function of corporate paternalism. Large corporations are the go-to funders of social startups – even when enterprise is part of the business model.

COMMON Pitch South Africa // A Micro Manifesto for Intercontinental Startup Teams

Because different cultures have different resources, I wrote up a few guidelines that can help social-entrepreneurs.

1. Be Maniacal. 

Don’t let anyone tell you no. Keep going til you make it happen.

2. Cross-train your brain. 

Business + Creativity belong together. 

3. Create shared value. 

Use design-thinking to infuse enterprise into social business models.

4. Do Shit That Matters (Courtesy of COMMON!)

Paint a picture of the world you want. Build it. 

5. When was the last time you broke the rules?

Trick question. There are no rules. 

COMMON Pitch South Africa // Pictures