We were excited to hear the great work that Tebogo Mogale (28) and Sammy Rabolele (29) are doing in South Africa through their Beyond The Eyes online TV network project, which appears to be the first black owned online TV network in South Africa. We decided to spotlight their start-up project and showcase Tebogo and Mogale as our May 2015 third millennium Africans for their passion and commitment to sharing their own authentic stories, the African way.
This month we are having Tebogo and Sammy on Spotlight Talks to share their story and tell us what the experience is like being the first young black people to start their own online TV network in South Africa.
Can you introduce yourself and what you do?
Tebogo: I’m Tebogo, and I am here with my business partner Sammy. I studied finance and the moved over to study film production. Then I worked a little bit in the broadcast industry with DTSV here in South Africa before moving to the corporate world where I worked as a consultant. From then on, Sammy and I had the idea to start our own business. Being that we share a common thread in wanting to tell stories, we thought that starting an online TV network would be a good way to go about it.
Sammy: I have got a finance background as well in finance investments. But when I finished I actually did ministry first. I worked for a campus ministry called Campus Outreach. Then after that I then went into the corporate space and worked for a company called Chapter One Innovation, an innovation brokerage firm under Adventure Capitalist Firm.
How come this convergence to start this project together?
Tebogo: We were friends from University. We had similar friendships and was always in the same circle. We’ve known each other for quite a while and just recently decided to go into business together.
Sammy: What really inspired the idea was, for us, asking “How can we make what we have a global idea?” “How can we sell whatever idea we have or whatever product we design to the global market?” And automatically when you start thinking globally there is so many other things you have to think about. But we thought the online TV space was right because of our heart to tell good stories and to tell authentic compelling African stories; that’s what led us to think of online TV specifically. Because in TV broadcasting, you normally have to get commissioning and there are a lot of red tapes. But technology actually allows you to breakthrough some of those barriers that are set in play by normal TV rules.
How do you see yourself inspiring other young black South Africans as pioneers of the first black owned online TV network in South Africa?
Tebogo: Basically, we are hoping that it will inspire other online story tellers who are thinking they are better than us in certain instances but really don’t know how to go about it. We are trying to tell our own stories but also trying to tell them well as best as we can. So we are hoping that this will be something that will spark an interest in global thinking in the South African market, which is something that we think is not really there. South African youths don’t think globally, they think only within the South African space. And we import a lot of things and take in a lot of things the international market give. So what we hoping this network will do is to get people to ‘think out’.
Sammy: I guess if you expose South African stories to the world you are exposing the South African people to the world. So the benefit of participating in the global village are numerous. Globalization is a great thing and has a great effect if you are willing to join in and participate. But if you never participate you will never actually get to experience them.
Speaking of sustainability, how do you hope to make this project sustainable?
Tebogo: There are two ideas around that, one is collaboration. We are trying to be in collaboration with quite a number of young production companies who are ready to put their stuff out there. And secondly, we are trying to get corporate South African companies on it because if there is no money there is no sustainability in our space. We are trying to lookout for corporates who are looking to invest in projects like this. So not just investing on the platforms but investing on the youths who are telling their stories.
Sammy: And ultimately, the beauty of building a platform is that you are actually developing an ecosystem. So it will be very difficult if it is one system trying to exist and trying to stay sustainable. But multiple people and businesses on the platform makes existing easier because you developing an ecosystem that can best offer consumers everything they want on that platform. So we want stories on that platform but we also want to be able to talk to each other back and forth with the social media. The point is that the platform could draw in a lot of people and businesses. The benefit for businesses is that their stories get told to not just the South African people but also to the world.
What are the possible challenges you are facing whilst building this ecosystem of opportunities?
Sammy: I think when you building an ecosystem the early work is the hardest because drawing all the right people or the pioneers to the ecosystem is the hardest. For instance, we were building the platform and at the same time we had to produce the shows on our company. But now have other production companies producing shows for our company. But the first few shows, we had to produce them. So in building the ecosystem, the challenge is getting businesses to advertise on our platform but once you have a few, the others begin to follow. And similarly, getting the first few people to get use to watching a television online is part of the challenge. The first few will be hard to get, but once you have a few people that are used to watching TV online, the culture becomes the norm and soon the ecosystem builds like that. So it is always going to be the first few people of all the part of the ecosystem that are the hardest to get but once you have them it kind of becomes a snowball effect.
Tebogo: The other challenge is educating the market about consuming online contents. We realize is a big challenge at the moment.
Do you hope to stay online indefinitely and take bold steps in making this online idea as your niche, or, is this the first step towards the bigger goal of running a traditional TV network?
Tebogo: Part of an ecosystem is the ability to feed off others; that’s the ability to overlap. So overlapping will definitely be a possibility. But our focus is to develop this online space as well. But if opportunity comes, and opportunities are coming, to broadcast a content on other digital television platforms, we will definitely do it. It doesn’t have to be all online. But, we see the importance of launching the online space because it makes it possible to tell your stories on other platforms. Because sharing your story on normal TV network can be very difficult to do.
Which of your TV shows is your favourite?
Sammy: My favourite show so far has been “Black Ambition” in all honesty. You know our history in South Africa, we really are the first generation to come out and experiencing the diversity of what we can do. In terms of what you can study, what you can do, and the kind of work you do. Our parents were restricted to a certain type of job that they had to do. In Black Ambition you will hear stories of young black guys who will help you shape your own ambition as they define theirs. These guys are doing great things across the globe. From starting their own business to pursuing quality education. But it is about how they do it and the impact it has in their local communities.
Tebogo: I think we both have a bias for “Black Ambition”. Primarily because it was the first show that we started and it was a personal journey for both of us. A lot of young black people are the pathfinders in their families. There is no history of lawyers, doctors and so on. Most of them are really the first generation to be doing extra-ordinary things. And because there is such disconnect, there was a need to get to know the young black people that are representing us internationally. But also, “Fashion Start-up” is also a close one because we realize that we consume a lot of international products, primarily in clothing. The young designers in South Africa often get swallowed up or lost because we don’t know about them nor are they given any air-play. So “Fashion Start-up” was also a big one for us because we want to showcase that these guys are also doing great things and their products compatible with international standards.
What would be your dream of an Africa of the future – your third millennium Africa?
Sammy: I really would love to see Africa leading innovatively, not necessarily in technology but in human engagement. As Africans, we have always been quite far ahead in understanding that we are Africans first. If we let that thinking overflow in the way we do our politics for instance, we can change our policies and breakdown the territorial borders that have been put in place that does not allow for free-movement and free engagement. I think this will be beneficial for our business, politics and worldviews and even allow us to benefit from all of Africa.
Tebogo: My dream would be for an African that has a more defined identity across the board. One that can inspire a sense of pride all around. Whether you are from Ghana or Nigeria or South Africa, to have an identity that is clearly defined and one that makes you proud to be an African. As well as a self-sustaining Africa. I really believe that Africa can get to a point we can create our own stuff – and is of an excellent quality that the rest of the world cannot help but to come here and engage in what we have.
Any 3 words of advice or encouragement for young people with great ideas who might possibly not know how to go about it?
Sammy: Just do it!
Tebogo: Identify. Believe. Innovate!
Thank you Tebogo and Sammy for doing this interview with us today, we are blessed to have you two this month as our third millennium Africans. Thank you for inspiring us and good luck on your start-up journey. We are looking forward to celebrating your hard work soon!