Fresh thinking & new beginnings


Yes I’m pretty far behind in the blog. There’s been quite a few things going on, which I also need to find the time to write about!

This first week of May brought the beginning of autumn, a psoas strain that effectively prevented me from practicing several of the Regional movements, a quick trip to Joburg for the “Wi-Fi Offload Summit,” a kickoff meeting for a project that will be launching in a couple of weeks, then another EduTech consortium meeting at The Office, followed by drinks with the lovely Kelsey. Happened to be the first thing I’d had to ‘eat’ all day. Friday. That is all.

Oh, and also agreement in principle with a strategic partner, about which I could hardly be more excited.

This view!

This view!

I am recalling with some amusement the proclamation of the Managing Director of MapIT, after their acquisition by TomTom last year, about how nice it was to have investors who actually understood your market and your vision.

This was a theme of the week as my presentation for the Wi-Fi Offload Summit had metamorphosed from whatever I was originally planning to speak about into a thesis on how actually, Wi-Fi is a complementary technology to the more traditional mobile and fixed-line …. But not for the reasons everyone says.

Telkom Mobile stood up there and said that as a stand-alone business case, Wi-Fi was challenging. And he’s correct.

More recently, I saw a Tweet by a U.S.-based analyst I quite respect who said that he figured maybe only 1% of worldwide Wi-Fi data traffic was any form of ‘offload’ from mobile networks. Call it offload, call it capacity enhancement … most people use Wi-Fi in their homes and offices.

... and this ....

… and this ….

The industry is doing what all industries try and do, which is push the benefits of whatever it is they are peddling.

So, Wi-Fi can fit into what this lovely industry calls a “hetnet” which stands for “heterogeneous network” e.g. mobile & Wi-Fi, but either in very specific narrow cases or, if you look at it from a different perspective, if you start to deliver real value over the network. Then the value is in the value (pun intended), not in the network itself.

Kelsey had the most amazing insight when I was telling her about how telecoms is changing, and the incumbent operators are worried [to varying degrees, and for varying reasons!] about so-called over the top (OTT) solutions like WhatsApp/Facebook/Skype, that all rely on a network being there but cannibalise revenue or start to monetise in other ways, but do it better than the telcos.

... and this!

… and this!

Long-term net-net the disaster scenario is where Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, etc. are all making so much money from the network, and have an effective lock on the consumer in terms of consumer preference (e.g. they are doing a better job of extracting value from the network than the telcos), and the basic connectivity cost keeps dropping due to competition and consumer expectations. In this scenario, the telcos will no longer be incentivised to build big, expensive networks with 15-year ROI timeframes … because the business case will no longer be there. And then you wind up with either aging infrastructures … or, say, Google becomes the telco of the next wave.

Lacking a code of conduct for digital privacy and security, that’s as dangerous as anything.

As I was laying out this picture of the future she looked at me and said that everything I was saying about telecommunications is happening in publishing (journalism).

And she’s correct.

But here’s the thing: I’d really rather not be Cassandra.

I also wouldn't mind not being pushed off my pillow by my own cat!

I also wouldn’t mind not being pushed off my pillow by my own cat!

Speaking of, sort of, it’s also been quite interesting to check what some of the Cape Town-based venture capitalists (and ex-venture capitalists, and would-be venture capitalists) are up to. Nothing quite like an ecosystem that’s pretty stable, but subject to some dramatic change if the winds turn the right direction.

Nonetheless, a great week to get my notions out of my head into Powerpoint, and to meet some of the people I met.

Probably the best way of saying it is that this week marked a number of different starts. But also, progress. Because things start, things end, and everything in between. Starting and not finishing is not something that pleases me.

Also, funny to reflect: there used to be a time when I was like everyone else, and feared public speaking. Like anything else, you face your fears and do it, and it becomes not only comfortable, but even FUN!

The competitor in me, having accepted that the injuries are too much to make a proper run at a good finish at Regionals this year, is going to have fun.

The competitor in me, being sat down in a room with my two biggest competitors, could hardly be more excited.

And they have random things in the hallways. Including cannons.

And they have random things in the hallways. Including cannons.

Let the games begin.


  • “Oh, hello Ruckus dog, under the table.” “Oh yeah, I moved him out of the way so I could practice walking on my hands.” “Of course you did.” – Kate & Ellie
  • “Do they test CrossFit athletes for performance enhancing substances?” “This isn’t a performance enhancing substance.” – Adam & Ellie
  • “I haven’t found that thing that I want to dedicate 20 hours a week to.” – Phil
  • “Milk it!! Haha.” – Kresten
  • “They created a competitor!” – Kresten
  • “It has changed my whole experience in Cape Town!” – Lara
  • “Intelligence is allowed.” – Philippe
  • “If everyone thinks you’re crazy, you’re probably on the right track.” – Ben
  • “As a stand-alone business case it’s quite difficult.” – Zoltan
  • “Out of bundle revenue is more than the icing on the cake.” – Tim
  • “If you are a mobile operator what would you do with Wi-Fi in South Africa?” “Make sure I fully understand it.” – Claus & Tim
  • “There is a secret code. It starts with knowing what spin churn is.” – Ellie
  • “A guy from Parow is forever going to be in Parow.” – Mohammad
  • “Backhaul is the beer to Wi-Fi’s peanuts.” – Bryan
  • “If you spend a lot of time thinking about what to do, someone else will figure it out.” – Bryan
  • “You can also drink on the plane, you know.” “And we will!” – airport lady & Keet
  • “Who are you, again?” “Orange. I’m Orange.” – Sybrand & Ellie
  • “You know their links are going to be up this afternoon.” – Enrico
  • “We need someone that’s going to suck.” – Doug
  • “I’ve never had a bad experience with him. I just think he’s an idiot.” – Doug
  • “Everything you just said about telecoms is also happening in publishing.” – Kelsey

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