By Khutso Tsikane and Simonia Mashangoane

The jamlab Accelerator Programme has given Jabari a real prospect of transforming into a viable business product for the community media sector. Since joining the programme, we have been able to develop a hypothesis which we tested through market research and product testing. We have registered our business and are in the process of designing an online portal that will serve as a matchmaking service for community-based organisations and funding organisations looking to support the NPO sector.

The accelerator programme has shown us the value of being a nimble and flexible startup. These skills are required if one is to run a successful business in an era characterised by constant evolution. Our experience in the NPO sector has reassured us that our value lies in understanding the reality of the organisations we will be working with and that comes with understanding their internet and connectivity struggles which we don’t take for granted in the times of the covid-19 crisis.

We have had to balance the need to adapt our startup to cater to an online environment which is more suited to working during the global pandemic but also making sure we stay true to the product and the clients it is best suited for. We believe that South Africa is making strides towards lowering the cost of data which will assist our work in disadvantaged communities and ensure that we stay on course as an organisation. However, for now, we are still working with many unknowns. We don’t know to what extent social distancing laws will last. We do not know when we will be allowed or even able to travel to other provinces to meet potential clients who still greatly value face-to-face interactions.

As the world of work grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, startups like ours have had to grapple with the uncertainty of introducing a new product during a global crisis. Digital inequality has been our biggest challenge as an organisation seeking to work with rural communities. The “work from home”, “ease of connectivity” rhetoric only rings true in small pockets of our severely unequal society. Acknowledging this reality, means shifting our focus from our potential clients to focusing on our organisational structures, processes and systems during this pandemic.

There are various tools and informative resources aimed at supporting startups during this pandemic, and the bulk of these of these “survival tips” have been instrumental to maintaining our sanity in these confusing times. There has been a real shortage of tools to guide startups that are barely on their feet. Startups like ours that are just getting started and have not yet built a repour with clients that can be maintained online.

Although the pandemic has delayed our grassroots efforts, it has also given us the opportunity to slow down, reflect and arm ourselves with research in order to resume our activities with a clearer and more refined objective.

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