One of the most archaic, traditional systems in the world is getting a facelift, it’s being disrupted from the outside in at a pace that is necessary for the sector to grow. Banking is being turned on its head through the agility and prowess of fintech startups across the globe, and interesting to me is the revolution of partnerships with startups that’s making the threat a sweetened growth hack opportunity.
More and more, we’re beginning to see the quite intentional innovation through large corporates, particularly banks with the agenda of strategic partnering with fintech startups to not only tell a good story but innovating with the intent of incrementally and radically transforming products within the bank’s objectives.
In Africa, we’ve seen successful partnerships like ABSA through their RISE signing POC deal with Peach Payments to test their product and Nigeria’s GT Bank investment in Accounteer with live integration to enable the bank’s financial services are prime examples of how the fintech dream team has mutual benefits for both entities.
Leverage the Open Innovation Agenda (Data, Infrastructure and Technology)
Innovation is expensive, and as disruptive as the process is and as sexy of a story it is to tell, the selling of innovation is nothing compared to the sweat equity involved to successfully take a product to market from ideation. One of the most heartbreaking cycles is witnessing a startup working with an entity, be it an accelerator or a bank with the intention to scale or prove a concept, and the innovation agendas are not aligned. Once the alignment is recognised and relevant, for the bank be it to incrementally or radically innovate their products which has an impact on their systems, or a growth hack opportunity for revenue and having more customers, and adding value to their data and technology. Whereas, the opportunity for startups usually comes in at acceleration of proof of concepts, going to market faster through capital investments and other capabilities and the chance to build on top of the infratrsucture of the bank through open integration.
Access to Capital, Network and Domain Expertise
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the opportunity to support startups from the bank’s perspective comes in at monetary investment capital, access to the network that of the bank and the knowledge sharing through domain expertise. In 2017, Merrill Lynch South Africa and Royal Bafokeng Holdings in partnership with Rand Merchant Bank’s Alphacode invested over R4 million in 4 fintech startups for the development of these high impact startups. Through Alphacode, fintech startups like Bankymoon, Livestock Wealth, Slide and Commuscore to name a few have to had access to resources such as an advisory network and a co-working space available.
The Opportunity to be a (First) Customer and The Acquisition
One of the most celebrated bank(able) fintech dream team partnerships is between startup Firepay and Africa’s biggest bank, Standard Bank to launch Snapscan. This partnership worked because of the aligned innovation agendas, and provided Standard Bank the opportunity to provide a solution to and grow their customers and supported the bank’s emerging payments strategy, and for Firepay, to have Africa’s biggest bank not only as a customer but now also as an investor in the business, and the opportunity for their product to scale beyond borders.
The dream team partnership doesn’t not come with its challenges, it’s not all rosy, after all, financial innovation and startups are competing with an archaic system with inertia to change from the security policy to the production management process. Partnering with banks is no walk in the park – especially given the early stages of these kind of collaborations.
As the ecosystem embarks on the journey, it’s key for both banks and startups to recognise that the bankable partnerships are not innovating not against legacy, but with legacy systems because of the valuable intelligence of failure’s patterns and the combination of new models, science and data through which both entities have the capabilities to impact.
And as a final word, ensure that your core values, and not just your technology and data talks to each other.
Around this time, a month ago I was landing back on South African turf at Cape Town International Airport coming from an inspired few days at the One Young World summit hosted in Bogota, Colombia at the Agora Bogota International Convention Centre. I was at the summit as a Thomson Reuters delegate and there was no preparation for the monumental few days it had been getting an opportunity to represent the continent and women in technology and innovation. I’d landed at El Dorado International Airport with 2 unnecessarily large (my mother’s words) grey bags and a brown purse ready to be a woman in technology with style, and to network and minister impact while getting and exchanging the tools of the social intrapreneurship trade.
Founded by David Jones and Kate Robertson in 2009 with the vision to invite young leaders across the global to formulate and share innovative solutions for pressing world issues, the summit has grown to be one of the largest has grown to be one of the largest gatherings of young global leaders. This year brought over 1500 delegates from 196 countries, all with the goal in mind to share stories and the work that our peers and their organisations and businesses are doing, and so that we may connect and be empowered to create greater social impact and add value.
The first day of the summit allowed me to meet with other Thomson Reuters delegates from all over the world, who are doing incredible social impact work inside and outside of the company, and to register for what was going to be an unforgettable experience. I had been connecting with one incredible colleague from the Philippines via social media prior to the event, Emmanuele Marie Parra, a Publishing Specialist by trade at Thomson Reuters and currently the Thomson Reuters Foundation Ambassador. It was great to connect with Emmanuele and hear more about her passions outside the business as an Anti-human trafficking advocate. If one thing is certain, it’s that it’s great to be with a company that values what you value, and invests in one's ability to make you even better at what you're technically skilled at and are passionate about , and at Thomson Reuters, there’s many millennials who take heed to that!
The unofficial second day, and first day of workshops and speaker engagements started at 08h45 with a session highlighting Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus’ objectives on the impact and giving the delegates insight into the work that he does. Yunus’s talk was bedded in his work in financial services innovation to alleviate poverty and build economic development across Asia. The talk was followed by a series of other engagements that unpacked case studies and actions that fellow delegates are undertaking to drive change in their communities, which undoubtedly was the most inspiring part of the program. The day stretched to cover topics ranging from anti-corruption, to using social media for good and powering sustainable development in communities. The workshop that left me underwhelmed and I was really looking forward to was hosted by The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, with a prime focus on "How to Create a Public Private Partnership". It was more of a presentation with a Q&A session afterwards than being workshopped the tools of the topic at hand, engaging with the content and delegates at hand.
It was day two’s programme that was the one that I was looking forward to learning from and engaging with. There’s a clear dependency of innovation and profit from global companies driving diversity and inclusion as a business agenda. What policies need to be implemented to plant a seed of urgency in the public sector? African youth and women are still marginalized groups who are not as active economically as their men and senior counterparts, what actionable conversations are being had and actions implemented? These were some of the questions that I was hoping to get answers from, and more particularly, shared case studies from the corporates on how they’re holding themselves accountable for the actions of their businesses. I didn’t get all my answers.
Themed on private and public partnership and corporates doing business in alignment with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the content was promising. It was the “Fighting Racial Injustice” panel that included Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson, Apple’s Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity Denise Young Smith, reporter Aamna Modhim and moderated by KPMG’s Global Head of Citizenship Michael Hastings that was one of the most transparent conversations on the main stage. The discussion unpacked using social media as tool to not only fight racism but create awareness around it, while Denise highlighted on need for the ascension of black women corporate and her role at Apple. The crux of the conversation brought out how technology, journalism and intrapreneurship are empowering people with the potential to disrupt societal structures.
Hosted by The Circle of Young Intrapreneurs looking at “How to Profitably Do Good: Social Intrapreneurship?” was a workshop that I’m happy I attended. The moderators really looked at some of the issues that we were passionate about, and imparted tools and techniques, and the network to be able to be supported and do the work. And recently, a Circle of Young Intrapreneurs -Johannesburg chapter powered by fellow delegates at PWC was launched, which was incredibly attended, sharing One Young World anecdotes and imparting intrapreneurial learnings for the aspirant intrapreneur and the corporate millennial who's an innovator at heart or by trade.
So, a month has passed, now what?
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the summit and be exposed to a global network of my peers who are doing incredible and inspiring work in their companies and communities. As a One Young World Ambassador also working on a project that focuses on the business value of having millennials as part of the workforce by creating sustainable innovation through the backbone of SDGs – I’m very excited about this one. The other goal to go back in 2018 as a coordinator, mostly with the intention of connecting the Africa delegates and growing that community and connecting it with the opportunities that we all have to create positive change.
Until next year One Young World!
A few weeks ago, I uploaded a blog post about leveraging the value of strategically positioning and the networking opportunity that is on social media platform, LinkedIn. In the article I discussed and unpacked a couple of points on how to make the most of LinkedIn, and wrapped up the post by sharing a new and proudly South African application that is perfect for not only introverts, but for those who are constantly on their phones during conferences and want to be connected. It’s time to have you Knekted to the world.
From 4 – 7 October 2017, I was fortunate enough to have been selected to be a One Young World delegate (now ambassador), and be one of more than 1300 global young leaders who have committed to and are actioning positive change in their communities and their respective industries and sectors.
I have to be honest, I’m quite the extrovert, so I find it quite easy to walk up to someone and engage with them, with the end result being either a business card or a Twitter handle exchanged between the respective parties. In all this, there’s always a moment where even the most confident of extroverts get nervous, what happens then? How would I get the rest of the world to KnektMe to their network?
In comes the beauty of technology, and introducing KnektMe, a proximity based networking tool that uses Bluetooth to discover other users within a specific area.
Founded by 22 year old Carl Visagie, KnektMe is a networking application targeted at entrepreneurs that allows people to connect face-to-face through the virtual platform. Once you have downloaded the application and created your profile (which is more of a business card), you’ll be able to connect to another user and see each other’s skillsets and other general information. Does this sound like any other business platform? Admittedly, it does.
So what’s KnektMe’s unique selling point? It’s the immediacy to network and create a connection where distance is no object.
When I landed in Bogota, I convinced a friend of mine to download KnektMe and to test it within the Agora Convention Centre where the summit would take the place for the days ahead. She agreed to the suggestion and that’s how I got to test out the interface of KnektMe. Because of its close proximity, we were only able to locate each other when we were on the same floor, and sometimes the same room. We managed to connect to each other, easily. The only downside to the KnektMe experience was that we couldn’t connect to every One Young World delegate as they hadn’t downloaded the app yet.
However, if the application was connected to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram as a means to connect with other people, and still within the unique value feature of the proximity with KnektMe be able to pick up those users - I believe it would’ve made One Young World and other events much more valuable.
Using Google Firebase Database to handle everything from security to storage, the platform is quite safe, revealing only the information that you’ve voluntarily shared, which is public.
Free for download on iOS and Android, KnektMe is the perfect platform for start-ups looking for investors and customers, recruiters seeking ideal job candidates, and freelance opportunities as well as general networking opportunities.
This is not a directory of names or a messaging service, it’s an instant networking opportunity for both introverts and extroverts!
I remember being told that there was this new social media platform in town and that the only objective of it was to replace recruiters and the long tedious exercise of applying your CV to HR practitioners who won't tell you why you'd been successful with the application. It was LinkedIn. And I can confidently say that my little birdie who told me about LinkedIn couldn't be far from wrong, from the recruiters and recruitee's perspective.
Two days later I opened my LinkedIn account, this was in October 2014. I then uploaded my favourite picture from Facebook, which, in the early 2000s, obviously was a selfie of me pouting. I then imported everything from my CV into the fields asked by LinkedIn. I then needed to do one more thing, I needed to follow all of the companies that I wanted to work for and then wait for them to follow me back so that I can have my interview. Now all I had to do was wait. And wait, and 2 years later I was still waiting. Clearly there was something wrong with either the recruiters, because my profile filled in all the blanks that LinkedIn asked of me.
It's safe to say that during those 2 years, no recruiter came my way because, well, I didn't have the most palatable LinkedIn account. So what needed to be done in order to be taken seriously as a professional in my field?
I first needed to understand the LinkedIn game before I could play it. LinkedIn is a professional social media network platform that connects professionals from across the world in different industries. The value-add about this platform is that it not only has it for job listings and a myriad of recruiters, it's also an opportunity to broaden your network authentically, receive and give testimonials about yours and your colleagues' work and update your CV as well as establishing your expertise and introducing people to your skills and thought leadership capabilities through blog posts and/or LinkedIn groups with their like-minded individuals.
However, in all of this you have to POSITION yourself correctly. LinkedIn is about perception, and how you consistently commit to it. It can be overwhelming at times to engage on the platform as a newbie, I’ve been there. Let me share 5 rules of engagement that curbed my experience and has now made it an incredible joyride, still learning on the way: 1. Invest in your Image
Your image and voice on LinkedIn will most likely not be the same as Twitter Facebook, where you’ll overshare about personal things, and update the world about your dating woes. The same goes for your images. Your profile picture doesn’t have to be you in a suit with your arms crossed and no smile to be deemed professional, however, do invest in a high resolution portrait picture that embodies your personality and invites not only recruiters and potential employees, but a professional network. You can reach out to Anthea Adams or Thandi Gula for this, they’ve incredible rates that won’t take you thousands of rands of pockets back.
2. "What do you do?"
Without a potential connection having to go through your entire profile or your account, LinkedIn has an incredible feature for you to provide a summary of what you do, and ultimately why you are on LinkedIn. Use this feature to your advantage, because it is your image, job title and executive summary that ultimately makes the first impression and first perception about who you and your work are.
3. Thought Leadership Positioning
Now let’s be clear, having a shiny image and a crisp executive summary doesn’t mean that people will now immediately come to your profile like a swarm of bees, invite them. This you can do through engaging with posts, and also through creating your own. This can be through posting images and status uploads, and one through a blog post. This is one of the most powerful ways to positon your brand as a leader in your market. People want to know how much you know about your market, and essentially be able to trust you about your thoughts an expertise on subject matters in your industry. Create blog posts atleast every two months if you’re starting out, and continuously market your thought pieces.
LinkedIn is all about relationship building, and finding ways to add value to your connections, and vice versa. Once you’ve made a connection, send a simple “Thank you so much for connecting!” or “Thank you for the connection, Much appreciated, I trust we will add value in each other’s lives. Best regards,” follow up note to initiate the relationship. This doesn’t mean that you’ll immediately work together, but you showing interest is a great first step!
As I wrap up this post, I’ve also just discovered a new application from Cape Town, South Africa called KnektMe. It’s the perfect app for the introvert who sometimes doesn’t know how to navigate their way at a tech event or a business lounger. KnektMe is a proximity based networking tool that uses Bluetooth to discover other users within a specific area. Don’t let your shyness get the better of you networking, and let’s continue to use technology to App(size) our careers!
Images by Thandi Gula Photography (left) and Anthea Adams Photography (right)
Clichés have maintained their reputation because of the baked truths that lie in them. The lexicon meaning of what a cliché is, is described as “an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.” Operative keywords from this definition are “effect and “meaningful”, with the common denominators as evident in this definition being time and relevance of these factors to a person’s circumstance. A cliché that’s quite meaningful to me is: “Your Network is your Net worth”. Do you still consider this cliché meaningful, or has it lost its original meaning?
Allow me to recall my introduction to the startup ecosystem, how I got my feet wet in the industry. It was in 2013 and I had accompanied a friend of mine to this social enterprise that he wouldn’t stop talking about and where he was running his business from, which was Hubspace Khayelitsha . In his humble swag, then Managing Partner of the Hubspace, Melilizwe Gqobo introduced himself to me and continued to facilitate introductions to me with the entrepreneurs and organisations within the Khayelitsha (and greater parts of Cape Town ecosystem). He intrinsically became my first dot connector. I became a Hubspace regular almost every Mondays (I was interning at Live Magazine from Tuesdays – Fridays at the time) and that was how the relationship building began. And, what had made the relationship valuable was that I made it my business for him to know as much as I do about and of him as he did about me, so that when the moment came for a chance to be introduced to an opportunity, I was someone on top of his head that he could connect the dots to.
In essence, I had to build my relationships before I could use them.
No one likes to be used, everyone appreciates leverage. This is how you build value around the relationships that you’re desiring to get something out of.
It’s cool to know people and be a business card hoarder, the true measure of your network is not how many people you know, but in turn how many of them know you and your product offering. Because, at the end of the day, the net worth in your network is in how many people you’re able to be connected to with the intention of growing capital – social or monetary. Therein lies networking 101.
I get the frustration or the exhaustive expectation of the “Your Network is your Net worth” to be an agile prototype of how fast you’ll get somewhere or to someone, but everything need nurturing before it comes into fruition – this including relationships, professional and personal. In order for someone to invest themselves, their vision and power to pursue the alignment of your objective(s) to their resources, you need to prove yourself worthy. In order for this phrase to have the meaningful impact, effect and mileage in your networking and network, validate what net worth means to you and in which capacity of capital you regard to be of value to you with a particular contact and circumstance. It’ll be in your best interest to manage and expect expectations.Your network goes beyond a Twitter following, email threads or a business card that’s collected dust in your room or office. It’s the “Hey, here’s an article and I thought you’d be interested in this piece especially since …” reach out, an honest and sincere “Let’s do lunch/coffee and catch up” with no ulterior motives or a “I would like to apologise for my radio silence and let you know I/we are still very excited about the prospect of working together…” email.
People change and updates happen in their lives and their companies (employed by or owning), how you nurture your relationships is up to you, because at the end of the day, that’ll gauge the value that someone is able to bring into your business and/or personal life. Do it with kindness, do it with tact. Think about it like this, ever downloaded that application from Playstore of Apple store and agreed to have them push notifications because you thought it in your best interest to be kept up to date about the app? And then the spamming works on your nerves because the notifications are never relevant? Wouldn’t you like more tailored notifications that can enhance your experience with the app and knowledge sharing? This is the same application with networking. How?
Use the engagement engine that’s data at your disposable about your network to retain and convert, be it to drive purchases, revenue or however you measure net worth for that particular network.