Madness at the Silicon Cape

Monday was an interesting day. I had a new intern start working for me and all I can say is THANK GOODNESS because this guy is fabulous. No business experience and studying philosophy but smart, hard-working, good instincts, creative, and common sense. That’s about all you need to be successful in business and I seem to recall myself entering the startup world head first with my liberal arts background. Hooray for being thought how to think!

I started planning with some coworkers the market research we are going to need for some of our business plans. For Purple Heart as we have already written most of the plan what we need is data to back up our wild suppositions (never mind that this is completely the wrong way to go about writing a business plan). For several of the others, where the businesses are much more nascent we have the ability to do things properly.

So I set my intern off to researching market size and segmentation for voluntourism and I started working on the social impact section of the FoodTents business plan. This, of course, led pretty quickly into questioning a lot of the statements I picked up from our existing materials. Wrapping my head around the complexity of the proposed expansion of the business model was a bit challenging. I’m actually not there yet, a week later, mainly due to the fact that other than one meeting on the subject I was pulled in other directions all week. But, more on that later.

According to my calendar, I spent much of the rest of the afternoon working on reviewing sections of the Purple Heart business plan. So, I suppose that is what I did.

In the evening there was a networking event put on by the Silicon Cape Initiative. Now I had been following Silicon Cape remotely ever since my first Skype call with Justin Stanford last September. I still remember that conversation because I was so happy to hear a South African accent that it literally made my day, and because I was inspired by the passion and the vision he had for what he was doing. The Silicon Cape initiative aims to bring people from the tech industry together, and get South Africa recognized internationally but mainly in the U.S. as a high tech hub. There are a lot of barriers – distance, lack of capital, actually a lot of lack of expertise, etc., etc. but the aim is laudable. I think that the initiative has a lot of promise but there needs to be more bringing of people together, so this networking event (only the third since the launch in October), was a good start.

Now believe it or not Becky Brandt (and others), I really am shy! At least until I get to know you, then I am most definitely not (ok I know you all believe that!). To cut to the chase, I considered not going to this event because I didn’t have anyone to go with and I always like to run back to safety, or at least have someone to go around and meet people with. But I figured what the hell, I’m talented and good looking (inside joke), I actually am fine with networking even if I don’t care for it, and it’s good to push yourself to do things that are uncomfortable. And there was an open bar. That helps.

So I went. The event was at the Old Biscuit Mill and it was crazy to see that space transformed so differently! I really wished I’d brought my camera, as words don’t really describe the scene very well. There were the hay bales of course, but lots of standing-height tables, fires, and huge screens with live Twitter feeds of the #siliconcape tag. This was amusing especially when DustinStanford (a parody of JustinStanford) started up. This provided us with some good amusement during the obligatory sales pitch by the good sponsors at FNB and Paypal. What these people clearly don’t realise, though, is that their audience is of above-average intelligence and a more subtle sales approach would have been much more effective. Ahh I hate it when marketers don’t understand their audience.

Saul Klein was amazing though! I wanted to get a chance to talk to him after he spoke but he vanished (figures). Well, that’s what the internet is for.

It was nice, actually, to be back in the company of tech people. I was a bit of a minor celebrity in my own right due to my first-hand experience of Silicon Valley during the tech boom. The first guy I met kept introducing me in this vein. The true test that you’re around people who are fascinated by Silicon Valley? They ask you how much you used to be worth. I was thinking yeah, nice to have THAT rubbed in again. I did find it strange that fewer people asked me why in the world I left the Valley to begin with. Too polite I suppose. Well, money isn’t everything.

All in all, I met some really pretty interesting people. Amazing how small of a world it is – the first guy I met was just told at an ANDE conference a few days earlier that he needed to get in touch with heart, and his co-worker had spent time at Berkeley. I also amused myself by feeling the need to explain to him that no, I don’t get referral bonuses from my gym. One of the people I met amused me by saying that CrossFit sounded like a cult to which I had to admit that I was in complete agreement, and I’d been saying that since before I joined the cult! But I met one guy who apparently is responsible for importing large numbers of vuvuzelas from China (always good when you get to say “so this is all YOUR fault!”), and amused a bunch of people by eating additional curry for dessert instead of dessert. I’m sorry but that curry was fantastic! Even the bartenders were really cool. It’s always a party when the bartenders are cool.


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