By Tatenda Chitagu
What started off as an ordinary application for Wits University’s media incubator programme turned out to be the right tonic that we had been waiting for.
We had registered ZimTracker, a Zimbabwean media fact-checking organisation, and through a stop-start process, we trudged along the rugged media terrain.
We had done some research and realised the gap in the media landscape in our country, and did some work on the ground. Clearly, there was innovation without entrepreneurship on our part, and the entrepreneurship ecosystem analysis we got from the Jamlab coaching was an eye-opener.
We had not thought of the business side of our media start-up, as well as its sustainability beyond donor funding, which sometimes dries up.
From business modeling to assessing other factors that have a direct bearing on our operations – the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal – our horizons were broadened and we started to think beyond merely fact-checking fake news in Zimbabwe.
Other fellows selected for the programme also assisted with ideas on how best we can take our start-up to the next level. Though with different ideas, some who had already hit the ground running shared ideas on how they overcame their teething problems.
And the weekly boot camps – including one-on-one sessions with our trainers who gave technical support, market intelligence and pointers on where we need to improve and how to engage new audiences, users and customers who have shifting tastes in media consumption. This was made through a business needs analysis posed by the trainers.
While ZimTrackers’ mission, objectives and goals were clearly laid out, it was the tactics and strategies that needed to be fine-tuned. Customer, market segmentation and costing were factors that we had rarely thought about.
The two co-founders had to rethink the fact-checking organisation’s value proposition, even though stand-alone fact-checking is a fairly new growing concept in journalism in Africa, where you can do a headcount of such initiatives.
So far, the incubator programme is proving to us that we are certainly on the right path-and definitely in the right direction. Soon we will be launching our website and starting full-scale fact-checking reports as well as training other fact-checkers in Zimbabwe.
The JamLab Accelerator is a six-month hothouse programme for journalism and media innovators. It is based at Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in the heart of Johannesburg.
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