Blog / The Unboxed product accelerator adventure goes to South Africa

February 2, 2016

We’ve been on a mission to conceive, build, nurture digital products that matter for many years now. More recently this means creating an ecosystem in which other people’s ideas can become reality.

Unboxed invested in my purpose-led start up accelerator, 50th Generation last year.

Then Richard Stobart and I decided to use our limited time but abundant energy to take our start up and product inception know-how to Cape Town for an intense 10 days in December 2015.

With three days to go, we’re about to fly out and we have three teams signed up. Eek. Cape Town gets its brain into gear – and the wonderful Wilhelmina Linnell of Linovator beams her light on the project – and we land in Cape Town with 18 teams booked in. OK, we really are doing this!

Jack Hubbard, our co-conspirator and founder of Dream Valley Projects is there when we arrive and suddenly it’s real.

Jack Hubbard

It’s Friday night. We’re about to launch. 18 teams and 25 people arrive for opening drinks in our glorious venue - Silwood This is start up acceleration among the trees, birds and hardidaas. It’s December and I’m in my flip flops welcoming Cape Town’s most open, creative and smart entrepreneurs with drinks, music and an inspiring talk from Jack Hubbard. It’s hard to believe this is work.

Friday

9-days from vision to share

The 9-day programme is structured into three parts:

  1. Profoundly understand your vision and the campaign you’re on
  2. Validate your persona, problem and solution
  3. Articulate and share your product with the world

Techqala

We spend mornings learning a concept and its associated tools over brunch, under the trees. In the afternoon, each team goes out and ‘does stuff’ – talks to customers, builds things, runs experiments. We gather back together early evening for beers and more learning.

Pitch

Richard does his uncomfortable but powerful ‘destroy your business’ exercise but sadly doesn’t get the opportunity to do my personal favourite ‘Faster Horse’.

I do my ‘I of Steel’ exercise and get some improv going. I also help people perfect the Not Pitch and set up a Not Pitching Day on the final Sunday.

We spend the 9 days deeply impressed by the quality of the people and ideas in Cape Town. We love how real and human people are. How honourable and how sharp.

Highlights

  • Hacking growth in the businesses, under the beautiful African sky – trees shading us, great coffee and the kind of relaxed mentality in which mindblowing ideas and relationships are born
  • Using our own bodies and the environment to bring lean start up business models to life
  • Jack Hubbard’s evening talk by the pool on building a tribe through low cost / high energy comms. Everyone learnt something really quite business-changing and I laughed so much I basically cried – obviously over tired!
  • The ‘scale your business’ mindful walk up Lion’s Head – we walk up, up, up into our 25 year vision and then enjoy the journey back down in the moonlight with the city lights below us
  • Fourteen exceptionally crisp and meaningful 3min pitches at the demo day
  • Presenting all the participants with Techqala alumni business cards and sharing the video of the journey

Business cards

What we learned

  • Low tech is freeing. No screens? No printer? Draw, use post-its, describe with your body, anchor it in the immediate environment, photograph. For example, we couldn’t print A3 Business Model Canvas sheets so we taught participants to draw it each time, using 8 pen strokes – fast, disposable and anchored in the brain.
  • Mobile tech bridges the gap – whatsapp key messages and visuals so everyone has their own personal screen
  • The group is smart - Whatsapp group as only comms means questions for the ‘organisers’ get answered by the group instantly
  • The size of group is part of the buzz - more than fifteen creates energy of its own
  • Weaving work, play and normal life together enables people to bring all of themselves and think bigger and with more clarity

Overstimulated

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Pre-register for Techqala 2016 (December, Cape Town).