24 Oct My Day Job: Mixo Ngoveni | Founder of Geekulcha
He’s young and passionate about technology, Africa and creative solutions. Meet founder of Geekulcha, King of the “Geeks” and vibrant tech entrepreneur, Mixo Ngoveni. With some incredible insight into the future of technology, creativity and even poetry, we caught up with Mixo at the annual Tech4Africa conference to find out what goes into making one of the coolest tech movements coming out of South Africa.
Hi Mixo. Could you offer some background about Geekulcha’s mission regarding technology? On your website you state that “Our aim is to create a culture of innovation, creativity, development and entrepreneurship amongst our fellow youth”
Mixo: Geekulcha is where the young, talented, skilled, creative and ambitious tech minds meet to learn from each other, connect with each other and also with industry leaders, get exposure to the IT world and put their skills to work. We do this through our online community and through varies events that we create on the ground.
What and where did you study?
Mixo: I studied IT and Business Informatics at Tshwane University of Technology. I am currently doing my BTech there.
How did you come to be where you are today?
Mixo: I was selected in 2010 to represent my institution, Tshwane University of Technology at the Microsoft Imagine Cup. There I met a lot of talented young people in the IT sector. I felt I was not up to standard to compete with them because they were more skilled and had better exposure, something that my institution didn’t offer. So in 2011 Microsoft selected me to be a MSP, Microsoft Student Partner, to represent my institution. That is where the idea started. I used that opportunity to start creating a network through Facebook for IT students in my institution to connect and share ideas. That Facebook group was initially known as INNOvatorz.IT because I wanted to encourage the students to be innovators and put their skills to work.
Early this year I changed the name to Geekulcha – a fusing of “geek” and “culture” turned around to Kulcha – and registered it as a company. The network grew through word of mouth and now covers different students from different institutions in South Africa. We are sitting at around 2000 members spread country wide and that’s just through word of mouth.
As an innovator and entrepreneur, is there a creative process that goes into your work? Also, what have been your best projects that you have worked on?
Mixo: Those who hang around me know that I can’t work without white paper or whiteboard and markers. I use them to put my thoughts and creativity there and that way people that I work with get to see my thoughts written down. The best projects so far would have to be working with the 6th SA Innovation Summit team and interviewing their key sponsors. We also had a lot of fun working on TEDxPretoria. I was part of the organizing team and 2 of our Geekulcha teams members, Tiyani and Gabriel where speakers for TEDxPretoria.
Girlz in Tech, Geek Starz, Hackathons and even the name Geekulcha – you’re clearly marketing yourself as a niche for a new market. How do you influence culture or how do you hope to influence it as Geekulcha?
Mixo: We believe that young people have the skills and should start putting them to work. Collaboration in different sectors will be key and that is what Geekulcha is trying to push and influence. We want to create a culture of creativity, a culture of young people who are not afraid to think out of the box and beyond. So far so good.
Do you personally work with any artists and designers? How do you feel what you do empowers interface designers and other end users?
Mixo: We have started working with designers because we believe that as much as we can make things have crazy and cool functionality there needs to be an element of making things looks good, sleek and cool. That’s where the creativity of designers comes in. We have played around with the idea of putting a beat-boxer and a geek poet in one room to see what can come out. The end result was pretty cool and we will be taking that idea further.
In what part of what you do you feel you need creative minds the most?
Mixo: Designing of the apps we do. Creative people just have a different way of thinking and expressing themselves. They are able to free their minds from restrictions and that allows them to come up with really cool, creative things.
There currently appears to be a disconnect between the Arts and Technology. In the past, movements like Experiments in Art and Technology would see some of the greatest minds in Arts and Technology (i.e. legendary pop artist Andy Warhol & “father of arts and technology” Billy Kluver) collaborate to find answers to problems. Art and technology had a more ambitious relationship. Do you agree that this disconnect exists and why?
Mixo: The disconnect still exists although a bit better. However more work still needs to be done and that is something we are busy experimenting with at the moment. Imagine poetry fused with tech, tech enhancing art. The possibilities are endless.
[youtube width=”640″ height=”400″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZCcE8izJ1k[/youtube]
What role do you hope to play in connecting the 2 worlds in the future?
Mixo: We would love to see the 2 worlds collaborating and creating awesome tech that embraces art. Through Geekulcha we will bring the different worlds together and work on projects that will benefit all parties. We have a huge role to play and are up for the exciting challenge. It will be so much fun.
What would you say currently are the most powerful apps that address the needs of a creative user?
Mixo: Instagram and Tumblr are currently leading. They have allowed a lot of people to start being creative through the use of tech. Pinterest is also one of them.
You also spoke at TEDxPretoria. How was the experience and what are your general thoughts on the TED idea-sharing business model?
Mixo: Correction, I was part of the organizing team for TEDxPretoria. Two of our team members (Tiyani Nghonyama and Gabriel Matabane) spoke. They did a wonderful job at it. It showed that young people just need the platforms to showcase their skills. That is what we took away from TEDxPretoria as the Geekulcha team. TEDTalks are very interesting. It’s a great platform to hear different ideas, opinions and thoughts from a variety of people that are from different backgrounds. We need more TEDTalks locally
What was your biggest out-take from this year’s Tech4Africa conference?
Mixo: There is a lot of people within Africa that are doing some really cool and interesting stuff. That gives me hope for the future of the continent and also for our very own country. We need to create local solutions for local problems. The time is now.
What were your other highlights from Tech4Africa and how did the conference help you?
Mixo: I attended Tech4Africa with a camera crew sent by the World Bank to document Geekulcha and its influence within the tech community. Through that I got to interview a variety of people at Tech4africa and did some vids that will be released by the World Bank. Interviewing Gareth Jane from Microsoft and meeting the founder of Tech4Africa Gareth Knight, were my highlights.
It was also great to have Tiyani and Raul be part of the speakers at Tech4Africa. They represented the Geekulcha community very well and we are super proud of them.
What’s next for Geekulcha?
Mixo: We will be growing Geekulcha to reach as many students as possible across the country. We are also working on our app which will be available early January. But next up is Durban Digital Day on the 31st of October in Durban. www.durbandigitalday.co.za
How do you think will benefit from the creative industry ?
Mixo: We are reaching out to creative people and also learning more about them while expanding our reach. In truth, collaboration and partnerships are just waiting to happen!
Find out more about Mixo and Geekulcha on their website here
[youtube width=”640″ height=”400″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnb8pZCwwVc[/youtube]
[youtube width=”640″ height=”400″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPsxI2FWIzI[/youtube]