Who's who in the Web 2.0 Zoo?

Mandy de Waal gets the low down on the new media elite. In this story
Mandy de Waal
By Mandy de Waal, ITWeb contributor
Johannesburg, 27 May 2008

* Web 2.0 is about freedom and letting go of control
* Businesses will spend $4.6 billion on Web 2.0
* Who you can trust to unleash Web 2.0's value
* Welcome to the white boy's club

The best description I've heard about Web 2.0 is that it is Velcro. Sticky. Addictive. Viral. What Web 2.0 is depends on who you ask. Definitions include seeing the web as a liberating platform underpinned by a philosophy of freedom and relinquishing control. The central idea is to give up power and embrace the social, open aspects of the Web. Regardless of how you define it, Web 2.0 is having a significant impact on the way businesses operate, how they relate to consumers, how consumers relate to them and how industry targets and interacts with marketplaces.

Empowerment seems to have touched every other industry sector, but this one.

Mandy de Waal

Forrester reports that business will spend some $4.6 billion on Web 2.0 related technologies by 2013, and that the world of wikis, widgets, blogs, mashups and social networks will become part and parcel of work life. Then as the Web 2.0 beast expands like a perpetual growth machine, the job of marketers and brand owners will become increasingly more complicated.

As the legendary Cluetrain so smartly put it: "People of the earth... a powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter-and getting smarter faster than most companies."

With business barely treading water in a Web 2.0 sea, a plethora of consultants and self-styled gurus have leapt into the breach. But in a dynamic and expansive market you know little about, how do you find the very best people to work with?

Simple. You ask the best who they think is the best. What I did was to ask the people considered hot in Web 2.0 to create a dream agency. The rules? They had to choose three of the best people currently working in Web 2.0. The candidates had to be South African, and the choices non partisan. Here then is the low-down on who's who and who you can trust to make Web 2.0 happen for you.

Andrea Mitchell has been actively involved in local and international digital marketing since 1997 and has worked closely with key global companies on their digital marketing strategies. As one of the pioneering architects of the SA digital landscape, Andrea is a hugely respected talent in the digital marketing field and is the founder of digiVOX, a specialist digital marketing agency. Her choices:

1. Allan Kent of AtPlay, a division of Saatchi & Saatchi, is one of the most creative thinking minds I have encountered in the Digital space. His creativity, combined with strategic, sharp mind on how best to tap into digital space is a true asset.

2. Vincent Maher of Mail & Guardian Online is a true founder of the blogosphere and strategic mind behind social media, and an advocate for social media.

3. Pete Case of Gloo is a creative mind who really gets the integration of digital in a multi channel environment, and how to incorporate Digital in meaningful, capturing ways.

Chris Roper: A former editor-in-chief of Tiscali World Online, portal manager at MWEB and MWEB Africa, and Editor of Social Media at, Chris Roper is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Before the interweb was invented, Chris had a varied career in magazines, including consulting editor to SL, Cape editor for Y magazine, arts correspondent for Mail & Guardian, Editor Obrigado, and monthly columnist for Style, Drive Out, Shape and Best Life. Chris is a popular columnist on News24, if by popular you mean hated, and has a t-shirt blog on called Cool for a Day.

1. I'd start with Evan Milton from, someone who is both a geek extraordinaire and a rock 'n roll kid. He absolutely loves and lives new media strategy, but is also one of SA's finest music critics. Employing him would be like having a left brain and a right brain in a jar on your desk.

2. Number two on the list would be Vincent Maher of the Mail & Guardian. I'm impressed by his depth of academic knowledge, as well as his utter love of social media. The combination means that you get someone who can create all the usual and inevitable apps, but who can also actually explain what the point of it all is.

3. And then, because more than two men in a room can get kind of smelly, I'd choose Kendyl Smith of for the design and usability side of things. She's the kind of designer who can make something usable beautiful, and something beautiful usable, which is a rare trait.

Dave Duarte is founder and programme director of Nomadic Marketing at the UCT Graduate School of Business. He also lectures on the MBA, Executive MBA, as well as Open and Customised programmes for corporates. He also teaches compulsory modules at UCT on undergraduate level. His topics are Social Media, Web Marketing, Attention Economics, Innovation and Globalisation. Dave is a partner in Huddlemind Labs; co-owner of; project lead for Creative Commons South Africa, co-founder of 27dinner; advisory board member for Ikineo; and is a fellow of iCommons.

1. Charl Van Niekerk, code master. At 21 years old, Charl is already working on projects with Google, Joomla and Muti. He speaks code, lives code, and may soon be able to manifest code simply by thinking it. I'd hire Charl for his potential and his ability, his optimism and geeky sensibility. He is very into mobile applications, open-source, standards and scalability.

2. Damien Du Toit, web design. Damien is one of those designers whose work's so good that you hardly notice it until someone points it out - it seems to adapt very naturally to the context he is designing for. That combined with his excellent photographer's eye, and his ability to code-smith with the best makes Damien a top contender.

3. Allan Kent, trans-media story teller and strategist. Allan is renowned for his ability to string together campaigns using every conceivable technology, software or device known to mankind, while still making it compelling for ordinary human beings to engage with. I'd hire Allan for his combination of strategic vision, marketing industry experience, and hardcore technical competency.

Eric Edelstein has been involved in Internet start-ups for ten years and founded,, and many other well known Internet companies. When not behind his laptop, Eric speaks at Internet conferences, does corporate training and buys and sells Internet businesses on behalf of his own venture capital fund and a number of private investors.

1. Mike Stopforth, CEO of Cerebra, who is a great networker and perfect for business development.

2. Vinny Lingham ,CEO of Synthasite who moved to Silicon Valley a short while ago, but who I would drag back. He is full of ideas, ideas, ideas and has an obsessive work capacity.

3. Allan Kent, who heads up the Saatchi division AtPlay. He's got that cutting edge creative streak to come up with the winning concepts.

Eve Dmochowska spends her day playing on and with the Internet, and thinks it is a rather fun way to make money. She is writing a book on Social Media in South Africa, and has two online launches in the pipeline. She also helps others solidify their web strategy.

1 & 2. Vince Maher and Matt Buckland who have shown exemplary vision and ability to execute new media projects while at the M&G. They are the rare breed of tech savvy, journo-trained, forward thinkers that are perfect to have onboard any social media project.

3. Mike Stopforth has both the social media skills and the business acumen that is required to run an innovative and forward thinking new media agency. He also has client experience, so we would be starting a step ahead!

Jarred Cinman is software director at Cambrient, a local developer of web applications. He co-founded Johannesburg's first professional web development company and was one of the founders of VWV Interactive, for many years the premier creative web business in the country. Jarred co-founded Cambrient in 2001.

1. Dave Duarte: I haven't met him personally, but I have followed his activities on Twitter, his work with Creative Commons and Nomadic Marketing conferences, as well as his blog. I think he's one of the few really grounded, deep digital thinkers in the country, and has an excellent mix of academic and commercial understanding. He also comes with a fantastic network and has a lot of credibility.

2. Charl Norman: again, not someone I know personally but someone I've admired from a distance as having generated some real money from social networking sites. I think he is a rare combination of a plugged-in geek and entrepreneur, and I'd imagine he could add a lot to any new media business.

3. Brent Shahim: firmly a part of the Web 1.0 world, but really about as close to royalty in that environment as you can get. He has built up Aqua Online over the past twelve odd years into South Africa's biggest new media agency. He recently sold the business to WPP, and it is now the official digital arm of Y&R in South Africa. Brent is incredibly adept at growing new media businesses with a strong commercial slant, and since I want any business I want to be very profitable, he would be a key person to have involved.

Matthew Buckland is GM of the Mail & Guardian Online and co-founder of blog aggregator and group editorial blog, Thought Leader. He has spoken locally and around the world on online media issues, including New York, London, Germany, Dublin and Kenya.

1. Herman Heunis, CEO and founder of MXit, one of the big mobile success stories not just in South Africa, but the world. There are also big opportunities to franchise the model overseas. It's real innovation in the Shuttleworth mould.

2. Jason Elk and his team at Zoopy, a local video sharing site similar to YouTube. Jason is a passionate and grounded person, with a brilliant team behind him. There is a great buzz and lots of lateral thinking going on at Zoopy.

3. Graunt Kruger, because he has a broad overview of the web industries and brings a strong commercial understanding with a developmental angle. Also one of the best networkers I know.

Mike Stopforth is an entrepreneur, writer and speaker who helps companies extract value from Web 2.0 trends and technologies. He heads up Cerebra, South Africa's leading social media company, writes a weekly column for the Citizen newspaper. Mike lectures at the Vega School of Branding; the Graduate School of Business in Cape Town, and the Gordon Institute of Business Science. Mike co-founded Web startup Afrigator, Africa's social media aggregator, and the 27dinner social networking movement.

1. Justin Hartman: I've worked with Justin on Afrigator so I know how driven, committed, reliable and competent he is. He'd be my first choice partner on any Web startup or project.

2. Vincent Maher: Vincent is a machine - he produces ideas and work at a phenomenal pace. He understands business and people and tech - a rare combination.

3. Tyler Reed: Insatiably cocky, slightly irritating and way too mature for his age, Tyler is a superstar on the rise. I just want a piece of his glory.

Paul Jacobson, a new media lawyer who is constantly looking at the opportunities that can emerge from the intersection of new media and the law.

1. Tyler Reed is plugged into the almost uncharted youth market and has some pretty revealing insights into how differently the youth approaches new media and media in general when compared to an older audience.

2. Mike Stopforth has the ability to translate new media jargon and concepts into plain English and get people fired up about the potential for new media. He may not be technically proficient but a vital part of selling new media is making it all intelligible and useful. Mike can do that.

3. Maximillian Kaizen is the woman you want if you need someone who can think truly outside the box and present innovative solutions to new challenges. She understands the tools and is constantly looking around for new talent to give substance to help innovate in this space even further.

Tyler Reed, a young entrepreneur, blogger and speaker. The creative strategist at Younique, a social media marketing firm, Reed spends most of his time working with the latest web 2.0 technologies and trends to find new ways of engaging consumers.

1. I would hire Mike Stopforth for his broad knowledge of web 2.0, his understanding of people and how that translates into value for business.

2. Dave Duarte because of the exciting energy that surrounds him, his passion for web 2.0 and the gift he has to be able to translate that to both the average joe and high profile executives.

3. My third person would be Uno de Waal, he is young and dynamic and has an in depth knowledge of how web 2.0 works both from a social and technological perspective.

Vincent Maher, strategist at the Mail & Guardian Online and co-founder of, the South African blog aggregator and analytics system. Former Director of the New Media Lab at the Rhodes University School of Journalism & Media Studies, the managing director of Digital Commerce and a multimedia director at VWV Interactive. Maher has worked in the online media industry since 1996, has presented papers at many international conferences and specialises in profitable innovation in emerging markets.

1. Project management: Diane Wilson, Cambrient Internet Applications. Diane is probably the most experienced and capable web development project manager in the country. She has a long history starting at VWV Interactive, working under some of the most stressful conditions I have ever encountered, to her current portfolio at Cambrient. She has been trusted with a few hundred million Rands worth of web development spend and has seldom missed a deadline.

2. Lead developer: Stiaan Pretorius. I haven't worked with Stiaan directly before but everyone I meet considers him to be one of the hottest developers in the PHP/Python environment in the country. He has taken over a lot of Justin Hartman's responsibilities on Afrigator and has done a sterling job. He gets the bigger picture and he delivers, what more could you ask for.

3. Business manager: Matthew Buckland, GM, Mail & Guardian Online. Matthew knows how to monetise an online business and is the king of deal-making. In the past couple of years he has turned an online newspaper into a profitable entity, which is a miracle in itself. He is connected, efficient and operates from a set of ethical principles that I have a lot of respect for.

Finally, in doing this article there's the obvious realisation that the article header should rather have read "Welcome to the white boy's club". Empowerment seems to have touched every other industry sector, but this one. However this is best dealt with in a dedicated column, rather than as an aside to this piece because it's such an important issue. Watch this space!


Mandy de Waal is a freelance journalist, columnist and writer for hire. A former broadcast journalist, de Waal has worked as a brand consultant and helped launch M-Web, Mosaic Software and She's worked with Microsoft, Motorola, British Telecom, Verizon, Consology and Nashua Mobile. She writes about branding, technology, new media and whatever else grabs her fancy for a number business titles including this new column for ITWeb.
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