The Journalism and Media Lab (JAMLAB) recently held its first demo day for the media start-up teams on the accelerator programme at the IBM Research offices in Tshimologong, Johannesburg. The event provided our first cohort of entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their business cases to potential investors, clients and business partners.

Wendy Trott from Omidyar Network said she was impressed with by the projects on the accelerator programme.

“We are really excited to see that there are these new initiatives that are coming out and that there are people experimenting with different mediums, different models… It’s a good indicator of where the field is as a whole,” she said.

Each team was allocated 10 minutes to present their case and this was followed by feedback and question-and-answer session from the audience.

Over the last six months, founders have worked on innovations that they hope can have significant impact on the South African and African media landscape. The executive director of Journalists for Human Rights (JHR)in Canada, one of the partners behind JAMLAB, Rachel Pulfer, says she saw significant potential for some collaboration between teams.

Lebo Ramafoko of Soul City during her presentation at the demo day. Picture: CHANTE SCHATZ

“Soul City’s attempt to innovate the way that they distribute content is incredibly impressive. A feminist radio station in the current moment of #MeToo, Harvey Weinstein and Donald trump — we need that,” she said.

“Black Girl Fat Girl looking at inclusivity and body positivity , again at this moment I can see real potential for Soul City And Black Girl Fat Girl to meet up at a given point, because Black Girl Fat Girl is targeting the youth demographic that Soul City could benefit from.”

Farzad Alvi, a board member at Journalists for Human Rights and an entrepreneurship professor, says there were two presentations in particular that he thoroughly enjoyed — Media Factory and Volume News. For Media Factory, he said, “I love the idea of taking excess capacity of freelancers and trying to match that to traditional media downsizing — somehow there’s a gap there.”

He believes that Volume News is at a great level of granularity of thinking about their business model and how to operationalise it.

Paul McNally of Volume News. Picture: CHANTE SCHATZ

“So it would be interesting to see how they think about their scaling strategy, maybe outside of South Africa and how they’re going to raise funds about how they’re going to do all of this. I thought that was quite impressive,” added the entrepreneurial professor.

Pulfer was enthralled with all the teams. She was impressed with GlobalGirl Media SA’s idea of new revenue streams and creating content for corporates and NGO’s, work that JHR does in other environments, where she says there is a real need for it. Another project that stood out for her was African Tech Round-up’s rigorous work they’ve done across Africa, which she says is valuable and much needed. “Lots of really fantastic ideas, lots of potential. Every one of these teams is going to go somewhere.”


JAMLAB Accelerator Programme

Earlier this year, Wits Journalism and Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct launched the JAMLAB Accelerator Programme which is based at the new precinct in Braamfontein. JAMLAB’s goal is to promote innovation in journalism and media through support for new enterprises and sharing innovation knowledge and skills. Our project partners are Ryerson University and Journalists for Human Rights in Canada, and the programme is also supported by the Open Society Foundations Independent Journalism Programme. The accelerator programme included assessment, mentorship, an entrepreneurial journalism ‘lean start up’ course and workspace at Tshimologong.

The prosperity and future of entrepreneurship and innovation depends on giving new entrepreneurs the right skills, opportunities, and support they need to succeed. Compared to well-established businesses, new enterprises and entrepreneurs face barriers related to financial, human and social capital. They are more likely to start their business with limited financial resources and that can negatively affect their growth, sustainability, competitiveness and success. Demo day is an essential part of the process connecting teams to potential financiers, experts and entrepreneurs. We hope it can play a role in helping the six media co-founders gain access to clients, investment and partners.

Click here to view all the individual team presentations.


Below is a short clip of the day’s proceedings.

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