A meeting of great minds for social innovative enterprises
There was a moment at the beginning of the Google Impact Challenge on Wednesday night when event MC Katlego Maboe was planning a Twitter takeover. Maboe took out his smartphone and asked the crowd to do the same and compose a tweet which read: #GICAfrica #GICSouthAfrica *grinning face emoji*.
He asked the crowd if they were ready to hit send, but some blank faces stared back at him because one vital ingredient was missing from this plan... “What’s the Wi-Fi [password],” a woman from the crowd asked.
With the Wi-Fi all sorted and the stunning view of the Johannesburg skyline flanking us at The Birdhouse’s rooftop venue in Milpark, our attention turned to a scene that felt like Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den, but in reverse. Instead of the judges being the stars, which they were, the main attraction of the night was the 12 non-governmental organisations and social innovative enterprises that were previously granted $125 000 (R1.71 million) by Google and were pitching for an extra $125 000.
Basetsana Kumalo, Ferial Haffajee, Maps Maponyane, Nomzamo Mbatha, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Simphiwe Dana were among the judging panel for the evening.
When there’s more than R1 million to help you build your idea you come out firing, and boy did they fire. The three-minute pitches included everything from teaching coding to youth prisoners, to a rewards programme for unemployed youth to do good; making our police stations more transparent; an online career advice service to high school pupils; and Memeza – a community safety initiative for vulnerable communities which provides an affordable alarm system that notifies as many people around you as possible and has a direct link to the police and community patrols.
As the judges deliberated – from what we were told, it was quite animated – we got ourselves munching on the food. From north Africa came chicken tagine as well as lamb, artichoke and capsicum tagine; the east Africa table featured butterflied prawns and yellow fish curry; and South Africa had oxtail pot pie, boerewors skewers and bunny chow. It all looked delicious, especially the halaal meal served in wrapping paper.
The judges returned and chose four innovaters to receive an additional grant – corruption watch Bua Mzansi, career guidance technology Gradesmatch, Memeza Shout Crime Prevention and youth positive behaviour tracking platform Zlto.
It was a little disappointing that the dancing which was promised was skipped by all and sundry, but then again who has time to dance when your passion project to uplift your community just got a cool million or so and you’re high on that endorphin hit?
INNOVATORS Actress Nomzamo Mbatha hands over an award to Natalie Miller, chief executive of GreenFingers mobile, a platform that manages and finances smallholder farmers in value chains
THE DIFFERENCE The 12 start-ups and judges after the Google Impact Challenge awards ceremony held at The Birdhouse