1. What is IIeX about?
IIeX is run by an organisation called Green Books and they host three conferences a year. One in North America, Europe and one in Asia, and they are the largest market research community. They host events, they have a media publication, and they are the largest community organisers of innovative minds and thinkers.
2. Tell us more about the competition, the competition process.
They have realised that the market research community needs to step up its innovation game as they have not been keeping pace with advancements in technology and digital platforms, so the organisers very smartly realised and begged the question: “Who is responsible for innovation?” The answer was “start-ups are responsible for innovation and they should be incorporated more into these conferences. Let’s feature them, let’s give them a stage to present that they normally wouldn’t have otherwise.” And as part of a way of doing that, they organisers decided to run a global competition at the conference every year. The organisers advertised that anyone could compete and the entrants ranking would be based on votes obtained. Only the top five entrants make it to the final stage of the competition. We competed against finalists from the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Austria and India, and we were the only African team that made it to the final for the first time ever.
3. Why did delvv.io decide to enter the competition and tell us more about the announcement?
We have been doing a lot of work in South Africa and, in our opinion have been doing great work for South African advertising, marketing communities, and we knew that we were ready for an international spotlight and that is why we entered IIeX. We involved our clients, friends and family and non-coworkers in the voting process while the wider community also seized the opportunity to vote which was cool. People from around the world saw our entry and voted for delvv.io too. They made an announcement that we made it and the final took place in front of 4 world-renowned market researchers.
4. Can you share some of the reasons why delvv.io won the award? What were the judges really impressed by?
The judges were really impressed with our traction, a lot of them said; “oh, you only launched last year, and the fact that you have 17 clients in 10 different countries with such a small team really shows the potential impact those clients are spreading around your organisation.” They were also impressed with our scalability and the fact that we have clients in Asia and Latin America, yet our entire business is run from South Africa.
We were judged by the head of research for innovation from Unilever, the executive vice president of Cantar which is the second largest research firm in the world, the head of research for ResearchNow, and the head of research for Forrester. They judged us on the originality of the idea, the scalability of the idea, our pitch – how well we were able to pitch the idea and the fourth criteria we were judged on was potential client impact.
5. Did you meet some interesting contenders? Did you meet any other interesting people?
Yes, there were about 800 people at the conference, and they were from all over Europe and North America. There was a lot of doctors that were working for neuroscience companies. There were global heads of research for the Manchester City soccer team, Heineken and Unilever to name a few. So some of the most powerful people in the industry gathered, and just rubbing shoulders with them was really cool for us.
6. Apart from winning the competition, what was the best part of your experience?
A lot of people have heard of South Africa as a research hotbed. A lot of the big research innovations that had rolled out globally, were developed in South Africa, so quite a few people wanted to talk to me about South Africa because they had heard good stuff about it. It was pretty rewarding hearing that we have a chance to develop something really cool that will be of interest to the rest of the world. Remon and I also got the opportunity to talk to many people about our upcoming product launch. The product is a self-serve SaaS platform for clients to take what we have been doing for them, and to do it themselves. We got to show a few demos which was really awesome, and it was exciting to get some feedback on and validation of our idea.
7. Do you think South Africa has the potential to be transformed by some of the innovative ideas exchanged and coming into play in other countries?
Yeah, I interacted with technologies and smart thinkers from various countries including Austria and Germany, all using technologies that I have never seen before that immediately had me thinking how I could bring that back into South Africa and help our business. And the same was thought and said about our great idea.
8. Do you think SA is ready to fully embrace AI, machine learning and robotics?
Let’s first answer this question: Is there talent to incorporate the technology in products? Because embrace means that we would actually have to build with it. My answer is: No, I don’t think there’s a lot of talent that can do this stuff just yet. However, I am starting to see some early signs of developers wanting to play with artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning which is fantastic. But there is a political issue as well – and that is human ethics. There has been very little policy debate on this topic, and the political dialogue has to start sometime soon.
9. Why is innovation important for an SME?
For an owner or a founder of an SME, putting your innovation glasses on almost forces you to think about what customer needs aren’t being met by existing businesses or processes. It forces you to consider the developments around the world in that specific sector as a foundation for understanding what is possible in your own country and on some levels it forces you to consider the technology that could underpin your innovation or your business that would help you grow to be a more profitable, scalable company.
10. Are there some things happening at delvv.io in the near future that you can let out of the bag and share with the Endeavor community?
Our new self-service platform – we are competing in the finals of the Start-up World Cup in San Francisco as the only African representative, and we will be launching our SaaS platform to the audience.
11. Lastly, we know that you were selected after winning the VentureBurn Pitching Den contest hosted at the SA Innovation Summit last year. How is it going with your pitch preparation? What are you excited about the most?
Remon and I have been prepping every single day and through the Endeavor team we were able to secure a team of Georgetown MBAs to help us finalise the pitch and prepare for talking with Silicon Valley venture capital firms. We are excited about the entire experience. What an awesome time for delvv.io.
Endeavor South Africa would like to wish delvv.io well for the Start-up World Cup 2017. Make South Africa proud, team! We are rooting for you!