As mobile phones were leapfrogging computers across Africa, there was an explosion of mobile supported education, health, agriculture and finance. Yet mobile phones were not being used to unlock Africa’s extraordinary creative expression and talent. My experience in both technology and media enabled me to see the opportunity that the mobile phone could be used to access a growing creative economy.
My vision was to create a platform where a marketplace could be established, empowering musicians, poets and filmmakers across the African continent to create their own store front and sell directly to their audiences.
I raised funding from venture capital and social impact funds both in South Africa and Silicon Valley, convened a team of talented, dedicated and innovative people, and we built a platform serving all types of media (video, audio and text) to over 3000 different types of mobile phones, including feature phones which were still used extensively at the time. Within a very short time frame we were working across 22 different countries in Africa with a catalogue of over 7000 artists.
Despite our incredible success and global accolades we were unable to realise an already secured and essential second round of funding that would have enabled us to become self-sustaining. This difficult experience of the politicized and fickle nature of the funding landscape for social change and innovation has made me deeply curious about new and more appropriate funding models, and the very nature of money and what we value.