The Infonomist - Most innovative companies in SA decoded
CAPE TOWN - Zero to One (0 to 1) is the title of a book by Peter Thiel, the celebrated technology entrepreneur with investments in some of the most successful Silicon Valley tech companies such as Facebook.
In this book, Thiel explains that doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1.
In the tech startup world we see a lot of companies that do what someone else already knows how to do, the companies that take the world from 1 to n.
The top 5 companies that received the 2020 Fast Company - Most Innovative Companies award are a classic example of companies that are taking the world from 0 to 1.
The companies that are doing something new. Such companies go beyond just developing the technology. They develop technology that addresses challenges faced by many in society.
The overall winner, Cloudline, which is led by Spencer Horne is not just developing another app, but developing another mode of transport. Cloudline has developed an autonomous airship which adds another layer to drones as we know them.
The traditional drone can just fly. The autonomous airship can fly and carry stuff at the same time. It does not just carry goods, it has longer endurance and range than current commercial drones.
What Cloudline has built leverages lighter-than-air technology and the latest developments in unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver essential goods and services to the 1 billion people without direct access to roads and runways.
This is one of the reasons why the global organisation such as the United Nations is backing Cloudline. Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef). which is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide has partnered with Cloudline.
Unicef is also funding Cloudline to design a carrier capable of transporting vaccines and other medicines into hard to reach communities Cloudline uses Unicef's drone corridors for development and testing - designated airspace with special permissions for autonomous flights. The input by Unicef enables Cloudline to be focused on customer centred design with a strong market fit in the humanitarian logistics.
Spencer Horne is not just sipping coffee around Cape Town coffee shops. He has walked the dusty streets of African countries where his technology will be used by Unicef.
After graduation from Harvard University in 2014, his stint as a business analyst in Kenya took him to towns across East Africa.
The Harvard graduate - who hails from Cape Town, Kuilsrivier - has caught the eye of an international pioneer in the aerospace sector, which designs, manufactures and delivers industry-leading commercial aircraft, helicopters, military aircraft, Airbus. Cloudline was chosen to participate in the Airbus BizLab global aerospace accelerator, where startups and Airbus intrapreneurs speed up the transformation of innovative ideas into valuable businesses.
In 2019 the international publication, Quartz, selected the founder of Cloudline as one of Africa's Innovators worthy of being celebrated for groundbreaking work, thought-leading initiatives, and creative approaches to problems. Referring to Spencer and other innovators the Quartz indicated that they each are exemplars of what’s possible when we take original approaches to solving big challenges.
Horne is not alone in this group of people who are making a difference through technology. He is joined by Dr Yael Joffe who is leading one of the top 5 Fast Company - Most Innovative Companies in South Africa, 3x4 Genetics.
This healthtech company is working towards making a difference in health by enabling people to have access to their unique genetic information. This innovative process will enable personalized, more effective and more sustainable health choices for a healthier, happier and longer life.
Sizwe Nzima is another entrepreneur who has been around and making a huge difference by enabling the delivery of medicines where it’s needed most in areas such as townships. These companies are far from reaching their full potential.
Fast Company (SA) as a media brand has identified South African innovative companies that are worthy of support. South Africans have an opportunity to support these companies and enable them to make a difference. The 47th issue of Fast Company magazine highlights the stories of these companies in-depth.
Wesley Diphoko is the Editor-In-Chief of Fast Company (SA). He can be reached via Twitter @WesleyDiphoko and via email: [email protected]