What happened at Cultureshift

It’s a few days after the two week Culture Shift ideation and hackathon hosted by the British Council, Jumpstart and Culture Code (UK) and for most of us, we are still basking in the afterglow. It was a wonderful event hosted to help local artists mingle with the techies and try to hack together some real solutions to their problems. It started off with two days of ideation where we gathered at the peaceful Alliance Francaise. My initial plan was to show up and learn as much as possible about the arts sector, I have always been intrigued by art from my early days in high school and so my enthusiasm to talk to a diverse group of artists was at an all-time high! The event started off with a speech by Nhena Nyagura from iWayAfrica who gave a frank talk on the state of the IT industry in Zimbabwe. I found myself nodding my head to a lot of what he said, the main takeaway being that we should put resources in one basket to make the most of what we have. He gave an example of co-opetition, in some areas in the country; we find two or more telecom base stations huddled in one spot instead of having one shared base station! In the end, we walk two paces where we could have walked four as a group.

After Mr. Nyagura’s speech, Jack Bucraft from Latima gave an exciting talk about social media and how they got a chance to help Sony reach a youth demographic in the U.K. Basically for a product to work if it’s targeted at kids, the cool kids have to say it’s cool. (In startup speak, early adopters) Of interest to me, was the video that he played towards the end found at datanecklace.com. This was something that was produced after a hackathon and is a super cool visualization of a person’s twitter feed! Data is powerful! And so is art; more so, when you know the story behind it. If I had seen the necklace at any market being sold for a dollar, I wouldn’t have looked at it twice but after hearing the story behind it, I considered the pieces invaluable.

After the talks, we got a chance at speed dating ☺ It was a quick and fun way to meet with all the artists who had about a minute to tell the techies what they do and some ideas on a solution they might want. I used the speeddating to find an interesting idea that I hadn’t considered solving before. After the speed dating, I had two prospective “dates”. What excited me about them, they had different problems independently, but I managed to see a way of combining them and coming up with an agnostic solution, applicable to both businesses. Day two is when we got to work on finding people to form a group and eventually start brainstorming. I was lucky to court the dates I had in mind, Sharon (Art Practitioner) & Jane (Craft Consultant) and before long our group had grown to six members. Our main focus became visual arts and we let the creatives tell us their problems. We had the pleasure of being joined by Bruce Stronge who runs a Ruby on Rails software company in Australia, who decided to become a mentor. After a day long of discussions, we decided to let Zimbabwe artists share their stories online as a way to connect with the outside world and boost their sales.

We had a lot of work in front of us before the pitching to find out if we’d qualify to create our solution the following week at the hackathon. Our group, Zimcreatives, was definitely the last group to go into the room to pitch, we had all out facts scribbled in no coherent way. As I was the one to pitch, I tried to memorize everything but it was a mammoth task so I just decided to wing-it on stage and pray it made sense. We got our chance to pitch second and well, the pitch could have been better. I’m sure no one really understood what we were talking about. We clearly sounded like we just talked about an online arts directory. There was so much more to our pitch though, our main goal was to tell the judges about the MVP that could scale up to anything. We thought it’d have been a wrong approach to talk of this huge platform bigger than Facebook and amazon we were going to launch. (Which is still part of our plans) By luck, we made it into the last group for the hackathon and that is when, we really started getting used to each other & working out the kinks. And boy, was it fun!

How we won in the last round will follow as part two of this series.